The Bombay High Court on Friday asked the Centre to inform the court of the steps it was taking to ensure that the fishermen affected by the coastal road project were not robbed of their source of livelihood.
A bench of Chief Justice Naresh Patil and Justice N M Jamdar directed the Union government counsel, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, to file an affidavit.
The affidavit should state whether the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was required to have had experts conduct a specific study on the effect of the reclamation and construction work for the project on the fisherfolk in the city and their source of livelihood, the bench said.
Such study was a condition imposed by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest on the BMC at the time of granting clearances for the project, which envisages building a 29.2-km long road along Mumbai's west coast, connecting Marine Drive in South Mumbai to Kandivali, a western suburb.
The court directed the Union government to file the affidavit clarifying if such a condition still existed, and if so, then "whether the study was to be conducted simultaneously with the reclamation work, as it progressed along the proposed stretch of the road, or, if the study should have been done before the work began"?
The HC was hearing a petition by two associations of the fisherfolk from the city, the Worli Koliwada Nakhwa and the Worli Machimmar Sarvodaya Sahakari Society, raising grievances against the coastal road project.
The petitioners, through advocate Gayatri Singh, claimed the BMC and Maharashtra government authorities had not conducted any public hearing, or consultations with the fisherfolk before starting work on the project.
They said in their plea that the road, once constructed, will take away their livelihood.
BMC counsel Anil Sakhre, however, told the court that the corporation would ensure that the fishermen affected by the project were duly compensated.
He also said the civic body will ensure that any likely damage to the breeding areas of fish along the stretch was minimised.
The HC, however, cautioned that if it was "not satisfied" with the steps taken by the state and central authorities to protect the fishermen, it would have to "think about whether to let the project go ahead or not".It directed the Union government to file its affidavit by April 9.