The Bombay high court on Thursday stayed the construction of a dam being built on Kalu River in Thane district because necessary permissions were not obtained by the state government from the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF).
The stay would continue for three months until the ministry decides on the proposal seeking permission.
On June 5, DNA had first reported how the dam, if built, would submerge an area of 2,100 hectares, including around 1,000 hectares of dense forest, and displace four villages.
“The private construction company appointed by the state government cannot undertake any activity unless further permission is given by the court,” said the division bench of Justice DD Sinha and Justice VK Tahilramani.
The bench rapped the ministry for not deciding on the proposal within three months as per the forest conservation rules, thus allowing the state government to carry out the construction activity on the dam site. “If it is a temple or a resort, it is ok. But if the matter is in larger public interest, it should be decided on a priority basis. You cannot keep everything on hold,” the bench said.
The bench noted that the ministry was non-apologetic for the delay.
“It is unfortunate that the statement made by the ministry on completing the entire exercise within four weeks was not honoured. However, nor there is an apology or regret in this regard. Because of procedural technicalities, the process was not completed. Due to the apology by the counsel, we don’t propose to take this matter any further.”
The bench directed the MoEF to decide on the state government’s proposal, seeking permission for development on forest land within three months. The Central Advisory Committee of MoEF has two months to submit its report/suggestions/recommendations based on the report dated February 9, submitted by the Chief Conservator of Forest (Central) in the ministry for consideration. Thereafter, the central government has to take a decision on it within a month.
The directions were given during the hearing of a petition filed by Shramik Mukhti Sanghatana, an NGO, alleging that the dam is being built without required permissions from the forest department.
In an affidavit, the state government admitted that work on Kalu dam in Murbad began in October 2010 without permission from the Centre and MoEF.
The MoEF had carried out a site inspection and the report submitted by the chief conservator of forest said the construction should be stayed as the state government had not got the necessary permission.
Advocate Gayatri Singh, appearing for the Sanghatana, argued that the work order was given on May 29, 2010, and only after the petition was filed, the state government applied for permission to the chief conservator of forest in June 2011.
According to the state government, as per a resolution passed on July 9, 2009, it was granted an approval for building the dam.