Nauzer K Bharucha and Vijay V Singh, Times News Network, September 15 2017
It means no construction can be allowed there, said a source in the special planning committee appointed by the state government to review the new development plan.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recently submitted the draft plan showing the new nomenclature to the state government for approval.
This sprawl on the Oshiwara-Pahadi-Goregaon stretch has been embroiled in controversy for the past 15 years following accusations by activists that mangroves were destroyed and debris dumped to level the land for construction.
Only a small strip of about 45 acres of this plot has been demarcated for a Special Planning Authority to be used for a public infrastructure project. Earlier, it was reserved for the metro rail yard.
“Except for this 45-acre portion, a developer cannot touch this land for construction if the government accepts our recommendation,” said a committee member.
Till recently, the entire land was marked as a no-development zone (NDZ), which allows restricted construction on such plots. However, objections by environmentalists that the sprawl had eco-sensitive wetlands made the committee mark it as a natural area.
“We have no knowledge about the changes made on the reservation,” said a spokesperson of the Jeejeebhoy Group. “Unless the state government finalizes the draft, we will not be in a position to comment,” he said.
Debi Goenka of the Conservation Action Trust said, “The BMC has accepted our contention that in cases where mangroves, mudflats etc have been illegally destroyed, the plots should be shown as natural areas where no construction is permissible. The plot has been shown as NA, except for a small portion, which could be for the metro yard. As far as we are concerned, the entire plot should have been marked as a natural area. And a metro cannot be constructed on CRZ I (mangroves) land.”
Civic sources said the land owner could avail of transfer of development rights (TDR) which could be used for construction purposes anywhere in the city. This TDR is in lieu of surrendering the 45-acre strip for the metro rail yard.
However, a source who reviewed the development plan said the committee has not recommended grant of TDR to the land owner. “Let the state government decide on it,” he said.
The six-member committee was given 15 days to submit its report on the extent of destruction with specific geographical locations, if any, and the present status of the site. The committee was to recommend further course of action, as directed by the Union environment ministry. But the panel is still not ready with its report.
The land owners and Sahara, who in 2002 had planned an 18-hole golf course and villas, have consistently denied that the land had mangroves. The project was shelved when the Bombay Environmental Action Group challenged it in the courts.
In September 2002, a site inspection was carried out by the then MoEF secretary and a ministry sub-group. It reported Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) violations and confirmed that mangroves were destroyed. The ministry revoked the CRZ clearance. Later, MoEF officials carried out another visit on November 3, 2002 and found reclamation by dumping of soil and levelling of land.