The Maharashtra state cabinet on November 1, 2018 gave administrative approval to the Shiv Samark project. This project is reported to cost Rs 3700.84 crore.[i] Since its inception people have raised about the potential damage it can cause to the environment.
An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report prepared by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and National Institute of Oceanography clearly stated that there is an abundance of corals in the location proposed for the said memorial. The presence of corals was also confirmed by the site visit conducted by the officials of MoEF (Minsitry of Environment and Forest) and Public Waterworks Department. They reported that the project will affect the migratory paths of birds and severely alter their breeding patterns. This risk is aggravated by the proposed turbines.[ii] Another report suggests that dolphins who inhabit the waters will be threatened due to the project.
The EIA stated that the project it will lead to irreparable damage to the corals as well as to the marine biodiversity of the area and will also be in violation of CRZ (Costal Region Zone) notification, 2011.
Apart from direct threats to animal life, the project will lead to mining, quarrying and laterite mining. Mining for the laterite will involve the clearing of forests and felling of trees. EIA did not take these factors into account in its report. The project proponents expect the contractor to obtain and transport these quantities of materials through his own ingenuity and enterprise. This mining of minerals will lead to impacts on the ecology of other areas.[iii]
National Green Tribunal had issued a notice with regard to the project in 2016, when it was in early stages of conception. It was followed by a PIL in the High Court criticising the government for spending Rs 3,600 crore on the memorial at a time when the state is facing paucity of funds. It was argued by the petitioners that the construction of the statue would lead to unemployment of as many as 16,000 fishermen, with the area being declared as no fishing zone. It would threaten the traditional fishing grounds of the Kohli community. The Bombay High Court issued a stay order.[iv]
It was challenged by the Maharashtra Government. On January 11 the Supreme Court has ordered to stop the construction of Shivaji Memorial. The Maharashtra government’s Public Works Department (PWD) has issued a notice to contractor company L&T regarding the same.[v]
Currently, as the future of the
statue is uncertain, the environmental damage that will be caused by the
project is certain. Recently, the Supreme Court has made remarks that the government
should strive to protect the environment. The same should reflect on its judgements.