The Bombay high court, in a recent order, asked the Maharashtra government to explain the steps taken so far and the reason for delay in preparing the zonal master plan for eco-sensitive zones such as Matheran and other areas around the city.
A bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice PR Bora observed that despite a Supreme Court order declaring Matheran as an eco-sensitive zone and directing the state to draw a plan to conserve and protect its hills and eco-sensitive zones, and also a subsequent notification issued by the union government, the state had failed to do the needful.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by a Matheran resident, who had carried out redevelopment work on his property with due permissions from local authorities. He was served a demolition notice by the local municipal body citing a January 2017 National Green Tribunal (NGT) order banning new construction in the area.
The petitioner, however, claimed that his property was old, constructed in the 1920s, and that he had merely carried out some repair work. He also said that though the state was yet to draw the zonal and sub-zonal plan, it uses the NGT order to issue notices arbitrarily.
The state, meanwhile, said that a sub-zonal master plan was ready and is awaiting approval of the Union ministry of environment and forest (MoEF).
At this, the bench said the state and local municipal bodies needed to differentiate between old and new constructions while issuing demolition notices.
“Though there is rampant deforestation and new construction activities are going on in such Eco-sensitive Zones, however, it does not mean that the old authorised construction should be demolished by the Municipal Council without following the due procedure. An opportunity of hearing has to be given to the parties to file their reply. We clarify that the Municipal Council of Matheran shall not on the basis of the general orders i.e. passed by the NGT issue notices to all the unauthorised structures,” the bench said.
HC is likely to take up the matter for further hearing on March 10 this year.