In a recent development, the Bombay High Court has expressed its concern over the inadequate security measures at a bridge in Palghar district, emphasizing the need for additional personnel to safeguard the area. The court’s directive came during the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) related to large-scale illegal sand excavation around Julie Island near Vaitrana Creek, falling within the Vasai taluka limits of Palghar district.
The High Court, consisting of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Manjusha Deshpande, took note of the PIL filed by Awaaz Foundation and Julie Kharbhumi Labharthi Sekhari Sanstha Maryadit. The petitioners raised concerns not only about the ecological damage caused by illegal sand excavation but also highlighted the potential threat to the safety of a railway bridge frequently used by over 20 lakh passengers daily.
The genesis of the court proceedings traces back to an order issued on April 3, 2018, in response to a 2014 PIL, which outlined various directions for addressing the issue. As these directions remained unfulfilled, an interim application was filed, prompting the ongoing hearing.
During the proceedings, the High Court called upon responsible officers to provide information about the steps taken to comply with the directives. The Superintendent of Police of Mira Bhayander cited a shortage of staff as a reason for the lack of surveillance. However, the Superintendent of Police in Palghar assured the court that there was no shortage of staff for surveillance purposes.
The Railways suggested the establishment of a beat chowki for the bridge within the Mira Bhayandar municipality, noting that illegally excavated sand was being transported near bridge number 88. The High Court, recognizing the magnitude of the issue, recommended that the Superintendent of Police take necessary steps to construct the beat chowki near bridge no. 88, with support from governmental and municipal authorities.
In the meantime, the state government is exploring alternatives to tetrapods for the protection of the island’s ecology. Despite orders issued five years ago, the court noted a lack of clarity on when the tetrapods would be installed. Justices Jamdar and Deshpande expressed dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs and deferred the matter to February 2 for further compliance-related discussions.
The High Court cautioned the state government that effective measures to protect the ecology of Julie Island, based on its 2018 orders, must be implemented promptly and without any ambiguous reasons. The court issued a warning that failure to take action could lead to the matter being converted into a contempt petition, putting the responsible officers on notice.
As the legal proceedings continue, the focus remains on enhancing security measures, curbing illegal sand excavation, and ensuring the long-term ecological sustainability of the Palghar bridge area. The court’s intervention serves as a reminder of the collective responsibility to preserve natural resources and maintain the safety of critical infrastructure.