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Big setback to Aaditya Thackeray as Bombay HC declares his pet project Powai Cycling and Jogging Track illegal, orders to stop work and revert changes

The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice VG Bisht of the Bombay High Court ruled that the project Powai Cycling and Jogging Track project is illegal, and ordered BMC to remove all construction work done until now and restore the ground to its original position.

In a major setback to Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation election (BMC) and Maharashtra Tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray, the Bombay High Court has ruled that the Powai Cycling and Jogging Track being constructed by BMC is illegal. The court has ordered the civic body to stop works in the project, and also directed to restore land already reclaimed for the project.

The High Court had earlier stayed the work in the Cycling and Jogging Track project while the matter was being heard, and today delivered its verdict saying that the project is illegal as it violates rules. The court agreed with the petitions filed against the project saying that it violates the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, as the Powai Lake is classified as a wetland.

The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice VG Bisht of the Bombay High Court ruled that the project is illegal, and ordered BMC to remove all construction work done until now and restore the ground to its original position.

Two petitions were filed in the court against the project, by IIT Bombay student Omkar Supekar and NGO Vanashakti. Another intervention petition was also filed by green activist Zoru Bhathena, who had argued that around 40% of the Powai lake is already surrounded by a road used by IIT Bombay, and the same can be declared a public property and used as a cycling track.

Another environment group Sahyadri Rights Forum had also petitioned with the National Green Tribunal alleging exploitation of Powai Lake due to the project. The group had written to NGT after receiving complaints against the project from IIT-B students, saying that the constructions were being carried out in a clandestine manner without due environmental clearances and in violation of judicial orders.

Apart from violation of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, the petitioners had also argued that the project also violated evelopment Control Regulation 2034, [34 3.3 clause 7], which said that no construction can take place withing 100 meters from the periphery of the lake.

The BMC advocate had requested the court to stay its earlier order staying work in the project, but the court rejected by saying, “If the court stays its own order then that shows that the court is not sure of its order. We don’t pass order like that.”

The High Court then stressed that the project is illegal and it is being stopped. The bench said, “We are sure it is illegal and so it has been stopped.”

BMC had tried to claim that there is ecological impact of the project by claiming that Powai Lake is not a natural water body. They said that it is a man-made reservoir and not a designated wetland, therefore no rules were breached. They also clamed to have used ‘gabion technology’ which is porous and doesn’t prevent the flow of water’ during the monsoon.

However, the High Court bench rejected BMC’s arguments and declared the project as illegal.

The Powai Cycling and Jogging Track is a part of cycling tracks the BMC plans to build in entire Mumbai. It is a pet project of Aaditya Thackeray, who had visited the Powai lake site several times to take stock of the progress of the project. Last year, he had tweeted that BMC and the state tourism department were working together to create a 10.2 km walking/ cycling eco friendly track around the Powai lake.

“It not just open up a natural urban space to citizens and tourists alike, but also help us interact with nature better. The Powai lake is a gem of our city with its beautiful surroundings. Every aspect of this track will be eco friendly,” the minister had claimed.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
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