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NGT disposes of plea challenging road project on Honnavar beach

The original EC was issued in 2012, allowing the company, Honnavar Port Private Limited, to build a 4-km long 25 metre wide road by upgrading a 'kachha road' within the coastal regulation zone (200 metres) of the Kasarkod beach.
Last Updated : 29 September 2023, 21:35 IST
Last Updated : 29 September 2023, 21:35 IST

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Activists opposing the construction of a road on a Honnavar beach, a nesting site for Olive ridley turtles, may have to begin their battle from ground zero as the NGT has referred the matter to the state environment authorities in view of the expiry of the environment clearance (EC) for the road.

The original EC was issued in 2012, allowing the company, Honnavar Port Private Limited, to build a 4-km long 25 metre wide road by upgrading a “kachha road” within the coastal regulation zone (200 metres) of the Kasarkod beach. The EC expired on September 20, 2023.

Damayanti Subray Mesta, a fisherwoman, moved the court stating that a mud path used by fishermen without connectivity for 4-km length was misrepresented as ‘kaccha road’. Arguing that the area was a no-development zone (NDZ) as per the coastal regulation rules, the petitioners had demanded cancellation of the project to conserve the Olive ridley turtles, which nest in the beach. They also noted that the path was washed away by high tides.

The HPPL, however, argued that a road with gravel mixture was developed while forming seawalls to check erosion and the NDZ rules do not apply to a site notified by the government as a port area.

The state coastal zone management authority (SCZMA) and environment impact assessment authority (SEIAA), which looked into the project following NGT intervention, have allowed the company to use the road in “as is where is basis” in view of the lease deed. The petitioners alleged that the company was developing the road.

The government submitted that the 4-km road connecting the port will link the port with national highway 66, under the Bharatmala Pariyojana. On turtle nesting, the company said the sporadic nesting will not be disturbed by the road, a claim disputed by the activists.

“The allegation of the applicant that the (company) is proceeding with the dedicated road corridor is not correct and it is only the existing kaccha road which is being strengthened,” a bench of Justice Pusha Sathyanarayana and expert member Satyagopal Korlapati said.

The NGT disposed of the petition while noting the EC in question has expired. However, the bench directed the SEIAA and the SCZMA to consider the question of use of the kachha road. The tribunal also told the expert appraisal committee of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to consider the issues of turtle nesting sites, nature of CRZ category if the project has an impact on the same.

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Published 29 September 2023, 21:35 IST

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