As the state government’s plan to unlock parts of 5,379 acre salt pan land in Mumbai to construct affordable housing has hit a roadblock, it is now planning to approach Centre to relax Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. The state initiated the process to use salt pan lands to build mass housing projects, primarily meant for the Economically Weaker Section and Lower Income Groups.
A preliminary survey carried about by Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) established that only 25 acre of the salt pan land or 0.5% of it is developable without any hurdles. The rest of the land that can be exploited is either under litigation or falls under mangroves and wetlands, where existing Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) rules ban development. In Mumbai, the salt pan lands are distributed in Mulund, Bhandup, Trombay, Wadala, Mankhurd-Chembur, Dahisar and Goregoan.
However, MMRDA will carry out a detailed survey with the salt department and submit a report to the state government. “Once we get the break-up of the pockets of land that is covered with mangroves and wetlands as per the CRZ definition, the state will approach Centre to relax norms for the wetlands to allow construction,” said a senior government official. As per the government estimates, around 550-600 acre of salt pan land was without any dispute and could be used for development.
Apart from Mumbai, adjoining areas of Palghar district and Vasai each have 2,000 acres of salt pan land. Another senior official added, “Though no decision has been taken in the matter, but after this survey, the state may look at salt pan lands in MMR too. If contiguous chunk of land is found without any dispute, it can be developed for affordable housing.”
The Centre is in favour of opening up salt pan lands for development and had asked the state to prepare a master plan for the same. Recently Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in October again directed Maharashtra government to prepare a master-plan for development of salt pan lands in Mumbai to push it for affordable housing project. The state is already facing a shortage of land for its pet ‘housing for all’ project—under which it aims to build 19 lakh affordable housing by 2022.
“Salt pans lands are inter-tidal areas which can be classified as CRZ-I only and laws don’t allow construction on wetland areas. Wetlands are also flood plains, if construction is allowed, it will affect the drainage of flood water and result in inward flood. If the government wants to build affordable housing, they should go vertical,” said Stalin D of Vanashakti, an NGO.