HC seeks govt reply to PIL challenging Powai cycle track

The court, in the interim said that no activities shall be carried out pertaining to said track till November 18.

The Bombay High Court on Monday directed the Maharashtra government to file an affidavit in reply to a Public Interest Litigation challenging construction of a cycling track surrounding Powai lake claiming that same would violate Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules.

The court, in the interim said that no activities shall be carried out pertaining to said track till November 18.

However, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which has undertaken the construction, refuted the claims made in the PIL and stated that it was a man-made reservoir and hence it has not flouted wetland norms.

The court then asked the state to verify the claims of BMC and file its affidavit in reply stating its position before next hearing after Diwali vacation. The BMC is constructing a cycling track around the Powai lake as part of its plan to have cycling tracks around the city. The project has come under opposition from citizens, environmentalists. Residents and activists have opposed the construction of the track saying it will impact the habitat of the Indian marsh crocodiles.

A vacation bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade was hearing a PIL by Omkar Supekar and Abhishek Tripathi, two PhD researchers from IIT-Bombay, through advocate Rajmani Varma, seeking to restore the site in its original form with an immediate effect till the information on cycle track project is made available in public domain in its entirety, followed by all inclusive public hearing.

Petitioner Supekar said that respondent civic and state authorities failed to respond to the RTI queries pertaining to said project sought by him, prompting him to approach the high court. “Construction activities carried out in the ecologically fragile wetland of Powai lake are a serious threat to protected and multiple endangered species of flora and fauna and there is no public information available on ongoing construction activities at all, hence the application,” the petitioners added.

Senior Advocate Aspi Chinoy for the BMC opposed the PIL and said that project was in public interest and there was no breach of rules as the said lake is a man-made reservoir and not a designated wetland.

After Additional Government Pleader Jyoti Chavan for the state government sought time to file a reply, the bench granted the same and sought state’s position on contentions raised in the PIL and in the interim directed “no activities” pertaining to track till November 18.

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