Though BMC chief Ajoy Mehta has said the city’s ecologically sensitive areas, spread over 11,303 hectares, will be preserved, the civic body’s media advisor, Ram Dotonde, seemed to suggest otherwise.
Dotonde told HT that roads proposed in eco-sensitive areas in the city’s latest development plan (DP) will be built if they had also been proposed in the 1991 DP.
The latest DP’s maps show evidence of this discrepancy. In some areas, the DP proposes roads that border eco-sensitive areas such as mangroves. In Vikhroli, the DP proposes a road between mangroves and a public open space, where such construction is banned.
The discrepancy came to light after Dotonde commented on HT’s report. “The roads (in eco-sensitive zones) included the 1991 development plan will be retained… some of them are essential for connectivity with the proposed coastal road.”
Last week, Hindustan Times reported that the BMC was planning the construction of 10 roads on land occupied by mangroves in Versova. The BMC had also demarcated 37 plots for real-estate development on this land.
Officials familiar with the DP confirmed that roads will be built though the city’s eco-sensitive areas if they were also part of the 1991 DP. However, when asked about Mehta’s statement about preserving such areas, they did not respond. Mehta did not respond to HT’s queries for two days.
“They are deviating from the stance that they will not build roads on natural areas,” said executive director of Urban Design Research Institute, Pankaj Joshi.
Mangroves are the latest ecologically sensitive areas that face a threat; earlier, the BMC proposed opening up no-development zones (NDZ), salt-pans and the Aarey Milk Colony to construction.
Other areas in which the civic body has covertly proposed construction include mudflats and the sprawling Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).
It has also proposed the construction of roads in eco-sensitive parts of Borivali, Dahisar, Vikhroli, Ghatkopar and Mulund. At SGNP, the BMC wants to build a tunnel as part of the Goregaon-Mulund link road.
The DP’s maps also show a road parallel to the Eastern Express Highway between Kanjurmarg and Bhandup, running through mangroves.
The civic body has been criticised for proposing construction on former NDZ and salt pans - which protect the city from severe flooding. Environmentalist Rishi Aggarwal said the city’s ecology would suffer gravely if these roads are built.