A multi-crore housing project in Worli coming up on 2 lakh square feet of land, which was served a stop-work notice in 2008 for starting construction without proper clearances, may get regularised.
The project at Mariamma Nagar will house 1,000 slum dwellers in five towers and includes a 16-storeyed residential tower and another commercial structure which the builder can sell for at least Rs30,000 a square foot.
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board had issued a stop-work notice to the developer, Akshay Sthapatya Private Limited, in 2008 for not obtaining environmental clearance although the project is in coastal regulation zone 2 (CRZ-2).
The developer, who had already started construction, approached the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) for a post-construction nod, which sources in the ministry say it could now get. “The project’s environmental clearance is under our consideration. It could go either way,” Bharat Bhushan, director of the MoEF, said.
The developer Niraj Rungta, son of former treasurer of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Kishore Rungta, did not respond to requests for a comment. A spokesperson for the developer told the HT that the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) did not inform them about the CRZ clearance. SS Zende, chief executive officer of the SRA, rubbished the argument. “Before every project, builders are told of the environmental clearances they have to take from the Centre,” Zende said.
Activists want the building to be demolished because the Environment Protection Act makes it mandatory for developers to get clearances before construction.
“If the MoEF allows this, even Adarsh will be regularised,” local activist Raj Awasthi, said referring to the controversial Colaba housing society under the scanner for allegedly violating environmental norms.
A senior MoEF official from the Expert Appraisal Committee that is scrutinising the project, requesting anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to the media, said: “There are enough precedents before us for us to give this one a go-ahead. However, we will tell the state pollution board to take action against the developer.”
Activist Simpreet Singh, of the National alliance of People’s movement slammed the MoEF’s double standards.
“The MoEF has argued in the high court that violations at Lavasa cannot be regularised since neither the EPA nor any Supreme Court judgements on environmental laws allow regularisation. Then how can they have a different take on a similar story in Worli?”