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More coastal space falls to builders

india Updated: Jun 24, 2009 01:27 IST
Ketaki Ghoge

If the state’s recent spate of approvals is any indicator, bypassing environmental norms for development on coastal land in Mumbai is easy — simply cite encroachment by slums.

Last month, Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), the state authority regulating development on coastal land, cleared four proposals all needing either excess Floor Space Index (FSI) or a change in land reservation.

These proposals have been forwarded to the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) for clearance.

If that clearance comes, it will make way for a five-star hotel in Prabhadevi, and three slum redevelopment projects in prime real estate — Lower Parel, Worli and Bandra.

All these projects are in the Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ, see box).

MCZMA examines proposals for development inside the CRZ. The four proposals cleared were by major real estate developers Akruti Nirman Ltd, Akruti City Ltd and Aarti Projects and Constructions.

Akruti Nirman sought a change in land use from industrial to residential, for a five-star hotel on the Hindustan Mill site.

The plot is reserved as an industrial zone and partly for a recreational ground.

Going by the minutes of the MCZMA meeting (Hindustan Times has a copy), the proposal was cleared on the grounds that if the plot remains vacant, “it will be occupied by slumdwellers and impact of the same on coastal ecosystem will be significantly more adverse than the planned development.’’

Officials argued that the city needs more hotel rooms to accommodate the demands of a commercial capital.

“I don’t want to comment on the hotel plan, it was preliminary. Other proposals were of slum rehabilitation and routine in nature. We still have to get clearance from the Centre,’’ said Vimal Shah, managing director of Akruti City Ltd.

For a slum rehab scheme (including a commercial sale component) at Rajiv Nagar Co-op Housing Society, Lower Parel, the developer sought FSI of 2.41 — permissible FSI in this CRZ area is 1.66.

MCZMA cleared it saying there was a “need to rehabilitate slum dwellers to raise their living standard and to improve coastal environment.”

Before seeking MCZMA clearance, the developer had already finished much work since permission for the project was given in 1997, well before a 2002 High Court clarification on CRZ norms.

A proposed slum rehab scheme at Mayanagar Co-op Society, Worli, on a plot reserved in 1967 for a garden, was cleared because it has been occupied by slumdwellers since then — the Collector has even regularised some of its hutments.