Amid increasingly choppy relations between allies Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the latest bone of contention is the chief minister’s pet plan of opening up Mumbai’s salt-pan lands to create low-cost housing.
Soon after Shiv Sena legislator and former mayor Sunil Prabhu wrote a letter to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis urging him to prevent the sale of salt-pan land to builders, Yuva Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray wrote a blog article against the state’s plan of “monetising” salt pans.
The Yuva Sena leader said, “It is one thing that the government tries to reduce the political independence of Mumbai by trying to dictate things to the local body - including the horrible white streetlights at Mumbai’s prime and pride-of-place Marine Drive, the change surrounded by allegations of murky dealings.”
“But killing Mumbai environmentally in its first two years of being in government without understanding the city, isn’t just going to limit to Mumbai itself, it will affect our globe. And I hope none of us will take it lying down!” Thackeray said in a blog posted on media firm NDTV’s website.
Looking to open up 2,177 hectare of salt-pan land in Mumbai, the state government has asked the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to prepare a detailed plan on how it can be used for low-cost housing. Incidentally, the city’s draft development plan for up to 2034, prepared by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has also proposed to open up 260 hectares of salt-pan land for exploitation.
Although the Shiv Sena has a majority control over the BMC, it has consistently opposed any attempts to open up no-development zones, green zones or salt-pan lands for development.
In his blog, Thackeray said the opening up of salt-pan land for builders under the guise of creating affordable housing will only destroy the ecological balance that the space maintains for Mumbai’s coastline. He equated the plan with the 2007 initiative of repealing the Urban Land Ceiling Act to create affordable homes in Mumbai.
“Not a single affordable house was made, not a single penny came to Mumbai. Such would be the fate of these salt pan lands,” Thackeray said.
He also targeted the BJP-led state government, in which the Shiv Sena is a junior partner, for dwelling on developers’ request to classify the east-coast of Mumbai as a creek to pave the way for construction of sea-front high-rises, and also criticised its plan for the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz underground Metro.
The Shiv Sena has been pushing for land at the Mahalaxmi racecourse to be developed as a theme park open for the public as recreation. Recently, Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray even proposed a war museum there.
Despite being an ally, the Shiv Sena has consistently sparred with the BJP-led state government over all the issues mentioned by Thackeray - renewal of the Mahalaxmi racecourse’s lease, construction of a Metro car shed at Aarey, displacement of residents from Girgaon for Metro work, and now the latest being the city’s salt pans.