The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests said that a March 11, 2003, letter — from then Joint Director (Environment and Forests) A Senthil Vel to then Deputy Secretary (Urban Development) PV Deshmukh — that Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society claims is proof of environmental clearance was merely a clarification to queries raised by the state Urban Development Department.
The society has been accused of violating environmental and building norms. It was also accused of getting the plot on which it stands in the name of building homes for war veterans and widows.
The society’s promoters have denied all these charges.
The ministry made it clear that it issued neither Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) clearance nor a no-objection certificate to the society.
The Environment Protection Act (1986) and CRZ norms have no provision for regularising an illegal construction. This means that if Adarsh is declared an illegal structure, it cannot be
regularised by payment of a penalty.
The promoters can be punished with a jail term of up to five years and a fine of up to Rs 1 lakh.
The 2003 letter states that the ministry had “delegated powers to the concerned state government for undertaking development in CRZ 2 and this should be taken up as per a CRZ notification of 1991 (as amended from time to time) and approved CZMP [Coastal Zone Management Plan] of Mumbai”.
CRZ 2 puts restrictions on the height of structures in such zones.
RC Thakur, founding member of the society, said: “The proposal was not forwarded to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) or the National CZMA (NCZMA); the clearance was given by the environment ministry directly.” Ministry officials denied this.
The ministry said on Thursday that CRZ norms mandated that the project be moved through the MCZMA for clearance prior to April 2003 and through the NCZMA after that.
An amendment to CRZ norms in 2003 made it mandatory for all projects costing over Rs 5 crore in coastal areas to be cleared by the NCZMA.
The state Environment Department said it has no records of the project being considered by the MCZMA.
The ministry is awaiting the state Environment Department’s report before taking further action.
Additional floor space index — which governs how high a structure can go — for the society was cleared only in 2005. Then, too, Central approval was a must.
Despite this, the civic High Rise Committee accepted the 2003 letter as coastal approval and the building was eventually allowed 31 storeys.