Faced with controversies over clearing construction proposals in the 3,160 acres of Mumbai’s green lung, the Aarey Milk Colony, considered a no development zone, the dairy development department on Monday stayed all new construction, even repair work, unless the law and judiciary department first approves it.
The department’s strict guidelines ask all government departments and Public Sector Units that have projects planned or repair work inside the colony, to route their proposal to the law and judiciary department for its opinion on whether the work needs the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) approval. The NGT, in an interim order last August, had stayed all construction within the colony.
The guidelines say if the law and judiciary feel NGT clearance is mandatory, the department concerned would need to get that go ahead first, before seeking a no objection certificate from the dairy department. If not, the law and judiciary’s written opinion on the matter is necessary to process a no-objection clearance from the dairy development department.
The NOC decision will then be taken by the animal husbandry and dairy development minister, and not at the level of the CEO of the Aarey Milk Colony.
“The CEO has been flooded with proposals from departments and agencies that have their offices and buildings on leased land here,’’ said a senior official with the department.
“In many cases, this is for repair or upgrade work on existing buildings or civic amenities. But, often, the contractors selected have been directly promised a site to keep their ready mix plants by the concerned department within the colony. This will is no longer be possible,” the official said.
The department has also learnt its lesson after a controversy over a gymnasium built inside the colony by state minister of housing Ravindra Waikar.
“We realised, in light of these controversies, it becomes difficult to fix responsibility as we get proposals to use Aarey land from the Mumbai civic body, Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) and legislators,” the official said.
The government resolution issued on Monday puts a lid on such proposals and states the same procedure of getting a legal opinion and that of NGT would have to be followed for new construction proposals cleared even at the state government level - like the proposed metro car shed, for instance.
The state’s handing over of land for the metro car shed continues to be contested at the NGT level, in a petition filed by NGO Vanshakti.
Of the 3,160 acres at Aarey, nearly 729 acres have been given to state government institutions and agencies including Mhada, BMC, fisheries department and Film City. Another 229 acres has been leased out to central government agencies including the Reserve Bank of India, central poultry farm etc.
The remaining land is uncultivated, orchards, social forestry and under roads and other amenities. It is the only big land parcel in the city and as such is being eyed by various state departments and agencies besides private developers.