Around 200 buildings in Navi Mumbai, constructed without the mandatory coastal authority nod, may go the Adarsh way, according to officials in the know. The buildings that house thousands of people are spread over land worth hundreds of crores. They were constructed after 2002, but without approval from the state coastal authority — the same reason why the Centre had, in 2011, passed a demolition order against the controversial Adarsh tower in Colaba.
The Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) and City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) — the planning authority for the satellite city — through the environment department have been trying to get post-facto clearance for these buildings since 2013.
The Centre, however, in its last communication in November last year, has asked the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) to take “appropriate and urgent action under law” against the projects completed without clearance from the coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) authority. The letter has not specified what action needs to be taken.
The minutes of the MCZMA meeting issued on Wednesday point out the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), in a letter dated November 17, ruled out “post-facto approval”, saying there was no provision for regularisation of violations under the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification, 2011.
Following this letter, MCZMA decided to seek a clarification from the Centre on the procedure for taking action against project developers for violating the law.
“This spells serious trouble for us. Technically, this means demolition of these buildings, like Adarsh. How can we do that? The Centre will have to find a way out through amendment or spell out the procedure for us,” said a senior official.
What has complicated matters for the state and the Centre is that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in September last year quashed two orders by the environment ministry issued in December 2012 and June 2013 that allowed the appraisal of such projects. The NGT had quashed these orders saying they were ‘illegal’ and go against the spirit of the existing laws.
The orders had allowed appraisal of projects constructed without mandatory clearance, after prosecuting the developer under the Environment Protection Act (EPA). Under the law, violation can attract a penalty of up to Rs1 lakh and imprisonment of up to 5 years or both. But many developers have gotten away by paying only the penalty under this law.
In the meanwhile, the MCZMA has also asked CIDCO and NMMC to submit a list of cases on alleged violation in different categories – where commencement certificates were given after 2002 and before 2002, cases where construction has come up in CRZ-II and where construction falls in CRZ I.
In 2013, NMMC had submitted a list of 200 buildings to the MCZMA, seeking post-facto clearance for them. While the MCZMA was set up in January 2002 as a regulatory authority to scrutinise all projects in coastal areas and look into alleged violations, until 2005-07, it was the urban development department (UDD) that made the final call on all CRZ projects.
Most construction proposals were not even forwarded to the MCZMA then, with the department not keen on passing on its powers to an authority that had outside experts.