Explained: What Is The Powai Cycle Path Project Declared Illegal By Bombay HC?

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In a setback for the Mumbai civic body, the Bombay High Court on Friday allowed the PILs to challenge the construction of a cycling and jogging path around Lake Powai and said the bike path was illegal. The High Court also prohibited the Respondent Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) from carrying out any rehabilitation or construction work.

What is the Powai Cycling and Jogging Path Project?

Recognized as a wetland, the artificial lake Powai in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai was built in 1891. As its water was declared unfit for drinking, it is used for industrial purposes. The lake has a water area of ​​210 hectares and a catchment area of ​​6.61 km2, according to the Central Institute of Fisheries Education. In 2021, the BMC proposed to build a 10 km cycle path around Lake Powai as part of its plan to have cycle paths through the city, a plan which also had the support of the Minister of Environment of the state, Aaditya Thackeray.

What is the opposition to the project?

Local residents and environmentalists have opposed the project since its planning stage. While some said the track would violate wetland rules (conservation and management), others pointed out that it would negatively impact the habitat of the Indian swamp crocodiles found in the lake. Some environmentalists fear the project will open up development space around the lake. The NGO Vanashakti even lodged a complaint with the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.

Need a bike lane

The Mumbai civic body argued that the cycle lane will lead to the creation of much needed public and open community space in the eastern suburbs of the city. He also said the project will guide the rejuvenation works of Lake Powai. According to BMC data, 10.9 million liters of sewage per day flow directly into the lake. The discharge of untreated sewage into Lake Powai through 19 culverts is causing pollution problems and leading to the growth of water hyacinth, BMC said.

BMC’s argument

The BMC argued that the project is in the public interest and that, as it is an artificial reservoir, the project does not violate wetland standards. The civic body also said the bike path will be completed using the latest “gabion technology” without any rehabilitation or construction work. He denied claims that the technology was dangerous to humans or the ecosystem. Gabion technology consists of simply laying PVC-coated galvanized iron mesh baskets containing stones of various sizes, without any joinery, fixings or cement mortar. The technology uses “porous” material and “does not impede water flow” during monsoons, the BMC said. More than 2,000 native trees will be planted along the track, he said.

What is the decision of the Bombay High Court?

On Friday, the Bombay High Court ruled that the cycle lane works were illegal and prevented BMC from carrying out any rehabilitation or construction work. The court allowed the PILs to challenge the construction of the runway and asked the BMC to immediately remove all the constructions carried out and restore the recovered site to its original position. It also rejected the BMC’s request to stay the execution of its judgment. He said the civic body can go to the Supreme Court. The high court first suspended construction of the project on November 1 last year, and the suspension has continued from time to time. The court on April 25 extended the stay until the verdict was delivered in both PILs.

After that ?

In a statement on Friday, the BMC said it “has always strived to create community spaces for the benefit of citizens” and added that the Powai project aims to create “such a space in the eastern suburbs”. “The Honorable High Court’s order, although daunting, is being read by legal advisers and an appropriate decision will be made in the interest of the city,” he said. “The BMC is always committed to the interests of the people of Mumbai and will strive to do more, within the parameters of the law.”

The BMC has always maintained that there were no breaches of law or rule and that precautions were taken to ensure that the project did not adversely impact the public, its habitat or its environment. The BMC also said the ordinance relates to the Lake Powai watershed and does not relate to the development of community space.


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