Wrong to ask developing countries to halt projects citing climate change: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court on Friday opined that it would be inappropriate to stall construction projects in developing countries citing climate change when developed countries are more responsible for global warming and its consequences [Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai vs Worli Koliwada Nakhwa Matsya Vyavasay Sahakari Society Ltd and ors].

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Hima Kohli was responding to arguments of Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves that unchecked land reclamation in Mumbai would lead to climate change.

“But only developing countries do not contribute to it you know, it is also due to pollution done by developed countries. Now to say developing countries must stop their projects [because of climate change] is wrong,” the bench remarked.

The top court was hearing a plea by the Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation seeking permission to carry out land reclamation towards the Coastal Road project to build parks, gardens promenades, cycling tracks etc along the highway project.

The Bombay High Court order that had stayed development work for the project apart from those involving the road, and seeking to expand beyond the initially allotted cap for land reclamation.

The corporation moved the top court in appeal against the same.

Gonsalves representing the respondents, argued during the hearing that the entire stretch would be underwater in a few years.

“City after city will move into the sea if developers are allowed so,” he said.

Justice Chandrachud then replied,

“It is a question of civilisation. How can we say India should stay frozen as a largely rural or semi rural (country), and stop development.”

Gonsalves responded by saying it is important to not allow such breach of coastal regulatory zone norms even if there was a fait accompli in the present case.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta for the corporation and Senior Advocate Darius Khambata for the Mumbai Metro said the contentions raised were all hyperbole and could be refuted point by point in a regular hearing.

The Bench allowed the development works as sought subject to conditions imposed by the respondents, but did not permit the permission to build an amusement park along the coastal road.

The earlier orders of the Court were accordingly modified. The petitioner was directed to implement the rehabilitation plan for affected fishermen within four weeks.

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