The order of the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) to raze the 31-storey Adarsh housing society tower will affect on not only other constructions violating coastal norms but also the redevelopment of 46% of the city that falls under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ).
The order has created ripples in the state secretariat and the powerful builders’ lobby.
“It’s a clear signal to not take environment laws for granted,” minister of state for environment, Sachin Ahir, said. “There are many developers, who have a tendency to say ‘we will construct, clearances can come later’. Now, that will be nipped in the bud. It’s a good order.”
Ahir said the environment committees set up to scrutinise infrastructure projects and the state coastal authority will have to play a more vigilant and proactive role in monitoring projects.
The state, under directives from the Centre, is working on a survey to find out violations of the 1991 CRZ notification.
“The MOEF has given us six months to submit an action taken report on CRZ violations under the 1991 notification, before the new CRZ norms were notified,” a senior official from the environment department said, requesting anonymity.
“The department is proposing a committee to look into complaints from citizens about CRZ violations.”
Following Adarsh, the state has been receiving complaints of violations of CRZ norms. The Navy, for instance, stepped up action against another building, Har Siddhi Heights, in Worli after the Adarsh scam broke out. Developed under the slum rehabilitation scheme, Har Siddhi Heights does not have a no-objection certificate from the Navy and the state is unsure whether it has CRZ clearance.
During their legal battle, members of Adarsh are likely to point to other instances in which similar violations have occurred. Sources in the environment department admit there could be many cases in which coastal permissions have not been sought, especially from 2002 to 2006 when the role of the state coastal authority was not taken seriously.
The redevelopment under the new CRZ norms declared earlier this month is also likely to slow down with politicians and developers getting apprehensive about pushing projects now.
More than 602 old buildings and 146 slum clusters can be redeveloped under the new CRZ norms, opening up a substantial part of the city for housing. But with CM Prithviraj Chavan’s diktat against the politician-bureaucrat-developer nexus and the MoEF’s order on Adarsh, officials will be very wary of clearing projects without thorough checks.