Last week, a bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice N M Jamdar had suggested that a status-quo be maintained, and the lawyer of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had assured that no further work will be carried out.
However, the court said Tuesday, it was brought to its notice that with each passing day further damage was being caused to the marine life and livelihood of fisher-folk living along the coast due to the ongoing reclamation and dumping of debris.
While the BMC denied this and urged the court not to stay the work, the bench passed an interim direction, asking the civic body not to carry out further reclamation or cause more damage to the coastline until orders.
Damage to the biodiversity would cause irreversible problems for society, the high court said.
The court also asked why the BMC did not seek objections from the public before starting the work, and why the project was treated as an exceptional case and exempted from certain environment norms regarding reclamation.
The high court was hearing a bunch of petitions filed by an NGO, a group of residents and fisher-folk, challenging proposed felling of trees and the ongoing reclamation for the project.
Senior advocates Janak Dwarkadas and Gayatri Singh, the petitioners' lawyers, alleged that the BMC had not obtained the requisite environmental clearance (EC) from the Centre.
Senior advocate Shrihari Aney, appearing for the BMC, argued that an EC was obtained for the northern part of the project, while it was not required for the southern end.
"One takes six hours to commute between Borivali and South Mumbai. The city is dying of increasing traffic burden. So, if the BMC and the state are making any attempt to ease this burden, that in itself becomes an exceptional circumstance," Aney said.
The bench said it was trying to ensure that no further damage was caused to the environment and the coastline.
"The petitioners say everyday the damage continues. And, it is this that we have to take care of," the court said.
Directing the Maharashtra government and the BMC to "maintain status quo," the bench said a detailed order will be made public Thursday.
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