Makarand Gadgil, Mumbai Mirror Apr 9 2017

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Several plots have been moved from CRZ-I and CRZ-III to CRZ-II, opening them up for development.

The proposed new map of the city’s coastline published by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) has invited the ire of environmentalists who claim that nearly 175 hectares of land has been re-assigned from protected coastal regulation zones of CRZ I and III to CRZ-II, throwing it open for real estate development.

While CRZ-I covers ecologically sensitive areas falling within 100 metres of the high-tide line where no development is allowed, CRZ-III covers areas that fall within 500 meters of the high-tide line and are also largely considered no-development zones. CRZ-II, however, cover areas that fall within 500 meters of the high-tide line but are already developed, for instance, Marine Drive or Carter Road in Bandra.

Environmentalists have pointed out that several land parcels that have been marked CRZ-II are free of any development, but by categorizing them as, such the MCZMA has introduced a certain amount of ambiguity about their status which can be exploited by developers.

In some cases, land parcels marked under CRZ restrictions in the 1997 maps have been left unmarked.

The maps of the city’s coastline have been drawn up by the Institute of Remote Sensing and Anna University of Chennai. MCZMA published the maps on its website on March 29, seeking suggestions from the public.

On the eastern coast, a salt pan plot in Mulund measuring 45 hectares, which is classified CRZ-I in 1997 maps, has been classified as CRZ-II in the new maps. Similarly, a plot of 4 hectares at Mankhurd near Vashi bridge has been converted from CRZ-III to CRZ-II.

On the western coast, a 43 hectares plot belonging to Sahara group at Oshiwara near Lokhandwala complex, which was classified CRZ-1 in 1997, has been left unmarked. Activists claim this is a ploy to take this plot out of CRZ restrictions.

Aplot of land measuring 63 hectares in Darivali near Madh island has also not been classified in any category even though it falls with 500 meters of high tide from two sides. On the city’s northern tip in Dahisar, the Ganpat Patil Nagar slum, which, according to 1997 maps, was built on mangroves, has now been classified as CRZ II, throwing it open for slum rehabilitation. The Ganpat Patil Nagar slum is spread over 29 hectares.

Apart from this, there are glaring errors in the maps. For instance, Kannamwar Nagar in Vikhroli, which is one of city’s largest housing colonies, has been marked as mangroves. Same is the case with housing colonies of Godrej employees. D Stalin, project director of Vanashakti, an NGO, said, “Some mistakes seem genuine, but there are doubts over mistakes committed where classification of plot has been changed from either CRZ-I or II to CRZ-II. We are studying these maps and will be submitting our suggestions and objections soon.”

Debi Goenka, executive trustee of Conservation Action Trust, said the new classifications will further open up our shoreline to development. “It will be an open invitation to the next environmental disaster.”

Satish Gavai, state’s environment secretary, who is also secretary to MCZMA said these are merely draft maps and as such open to public scrutiny. “If there are mistakes and they are pointed out to MCZMA, changes will certainly be considered,” he said.

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