Aarey Milk Colony is not the only green lung that the proposed development plan (DP) for the city seeks to exploit. The DP may also open the door for the construction of 37 housing societies spread across 45,000 sqm of pristine mangroves in Versova. The construction had been deemed illegal by the Bombay high court.
The proposed land use (PLU) maps of the K-West ward showed vast areas of mangrove land in Versova’s survey number 161 being demarcated into 37 housing societies, proposed to sit cheek-by-jowl along the sea and the proposed coastal road. Real estate market watchers said if these plans go through, the real estate developed on the land could be worth more than Rs800 crore.
The DP also marked out land for a hospital and two open spaces in the mangroves.
While the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) insisted this land cannot be developed because it is occupied by mangroves, these maps could spell trouble for the city’s green buffer zone. The reasons: With clearances for the proposed coastal road being fast-tracked, these plots, which will then fall on the landward side of the coastal road may get a development nod. If the DP is approved, these plots will continue to be reserved for use by these societies.
Raising further questions about the intent behind these demarcations is the fact that the HC, acting on a petition filed against these proposed societies by the Save Andheri Versova Environment (SAVE) forum, had categorically ruled against it. The HC had asked the state to instead ensure these mangroves are not harmed in any way.
The fresh allocations have now made residents suspicious. “Clearly, there has to be a reason why the BMC chose to demarcate these societies on mangrove land, even if the HC had disallowed them. Is the BMC hoping CRZ laws are watered down and these societies are allowed to come up?” said Rajesh Vora, member of the SAVE forum.
BMC town planning officer Dinesh Naik defended the plot markings and said, “The DP has to show all the properties that are shown in the City Town Survey records. However, these plots cannot be developed since they are on mangroves.”