Ramesh Srivastava (name changed) sold his other properties and moved to Vaishali Nagar in Dahisar (E) in 2002 so that he could have a view of the hills and the luscious greenery.
His dream has slowly turned into a nightmare as a plot designated as a no-development zone (NDZ) bordering on forest land has slowly given way to a pay-and-park lot, where autorickshaws and taxis are parked throughout the day.
Shanties have mushroomed on the plot, which falls under private ownership, and is doubling as garages for the vehicles.
Srivastava said, “There has been incessant dumping of debris on these plots. However, it has now reached alarming proportions because the dumping has extended towards the forestland too. We are afraid that this pay-and-park area will be extended onto forest land, as well.”
It’s not just the extension of the parking lot that bothers Srivastava. For nearly 3km around Vaishali Nagar, there are no open spaces for children to play in. “Our children need to travel a great distance for even a game of cricket.”
However, ward officials are hesitant to initiate action because the plot is under private ownership. “It is the owner’s responsibility to ensure there are no illegal pay and park lots running in the premises. We can only step in when there are any structures being built in an NDZ,” said Parag Masurkar, ward officer, R North ward.
When pointed out that garages existed on the plot, Masurkar said, “When we last checked, one of the garages is under litigation. But, we will check if they have sprouted up again.” The owner of the plot, Salim Shaikh refused to take responsibility for the parking lot.
“I have no idea about any parking lots existing on the plot. Since it is an NDZ, we cannot possibly have any construction there.” Shaikh agreed that the plot bordered on forest land, but denied knowledge of any dumping of debris on the plot.
HT spoke to one of the auto drivers, who frequent the parking lot. “We are charged Rs 15 a day for parking our autos but taxis are charged about Rs 20.” An insider, working in one of the garages, said, “The average daily business is about Rs 3,000, and the monthly is about Rs 65,000.”
Raju Sawant, chairman of the Vaishali Nagar Residents’ Welfare Association said, “The authorities refuse to take any action.”