For every Adarsh society or Campa Cola complex, there could be 100 other structures in the city that are built in coastal areas without the mandatory Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance.
This violation of environment laws is as much the state government’s fault as developers’, and the suffering is passed on to residents, as the CRZ laws have no provision for regularisation.
The row over the Adarsh Co-operative Housing Society, which, apart from many other irregularities, was built without the CRZ clearance, revealed that the state had been selectively interpreting the two central notifications of 1998 and 2002, which authorised the setting up of a state coastal body to examine all projects coming up in coastal areas.
The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) was formally set up in January 2002 as a regulatory authority to scrutinise all projects in coastal areas and look into alleged violations.
Senior government officials admit that for several years, it was the UDD that took the final call on all CRZ projects, with most construction proposals not even being forwarded to the MCZMA.
A scrutiny of the MCZMA meetings reveals that barring one or two construction projects, up until 2005, the coastal body was mostly looking into complaints of violations by NGOs and public projects, such as bridges.
“For a long time, all construction projects in coastal areas were not sent to the MCZMA for approval. Post 2002, it became mandatory, but even as recently as 2007, all projects may not have gotten valid coastal clearance,” admitted environment secretary Valsa Nair Singh.
“The UDD didn’t want to yield powers to the MCZMA, a committee with experts from outside. Like Adarsh, the UDD granted CRZ clearances to many buildings in this time frame. This was clearly to bypass laws,’’said a former environment department official.
In an affidavit before the Adarsh commission, the UDD had admitted it had given clearances to three buildings apart from Adarsh between 2002 to 2003, without referring the matter to the MoEF.
These include CR2 building in Nariman Point, Ghelabhai mansion in Girgaon and Worli’s Sardar Vallabhai Patel stadium. But, officials admit there could be more such sanctions.