After tribal threat to protest, TMC cracks down on illegal hotels in Yeoor forest
One such illegal establishment was the Bombay Duck Hotel which sprawled across a 12,000 sq ft area and was demolished by the TMC on Friday. “We have initiated the demolition of illegal parts of this particular hotel after checking if they have all the permissions,” said Sachin Borse, assistant municipal commissioner, TMC
Thane: After repeated complaints from the tribal community, NGOs and activists against the functioning of illegal establishments in Yeoor forest which is an eco-sensitive zone, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) on Friday carried out demolition work of the unauthorised structures.
These establishments are not only illegal but turn out to be a nightmare for the indigenous people living in the forest as they had to deal with loud parties, rash driving and commotion.
One such illegal establishment was the Bombay Duck Hotel which sprawled across a 12,000 sq ft area and was demolished by the TMC on Friday. “We have initiated the demolition of illegal parts of this particular hotel after checking if they have all the permissions,” said Sachin Borse, assistant municipal commissioner, TMC.
Borse added, “The demolition will take time as we are cross-checking the facts and accordingly acting against them. This will be regular work from now onwards.”
Till the time of going to press, hotel authorities did not respond to the matter.
On Thursday, the tribals along with the NGOs and activists from Yeoor forest threatened a protest strike against the illegal activities in the forest. The TMC initiated the demolitions on Friday morning.
Tribals, activists and NGOs supporting them have been highlighting the impact of these illegal activities in the forest area on wildlife animals and birds. They also demanded strict action against these activities.
On Thursday, a group of tribals stood holding placards in the forest which displayed the animals in the forest, how the forest is being misused and how it is affecting the entire forest area.
A signature campaign which garnered 4,000 plus signatures since February was also taken up in order to reach out to the authorities, and the state forest minister Sudhie Mungantiwar.
The tribals complained of late-night parties allowed in hotels, loud DJ music, nighttime cricket turf, sale of alcohol, marriage events, dumping of waste in the open, illegal parking, and rash driving.
Earlier, several residents of Yeoor Hills along with an activist–Ajay Jaya–had approached the Bombay high court against hotels and restaurants that are operating without a fire no objection certificate (NOC) in the area.
On February 2, the plea was filed where the petitioners asked the HC to direct the fire department and TMC to immediately act against all commercial establishments operating without fire NOCs in the forest area.
The development came after the locals filed an RTI which revealed that hotels in the area were operating without a NOC. Yeoor is an eco-sensitive zone surrounded by Sanjay Gandhi National Park and inhabited by leopards and other wildlife.
The petition highlighted that under the Maharashtra Fire Act 2007, it is compulsory to possess an NOC or fire licence to obtain a building plan approval from the civic body.
The lives of indigenous people living in the forest, wildlife and vegetation would be in danger in case of a fire, the petition read. Several restaurants are housing more than one gas cylinder and offer hookahs, the petition stated.
Apart from the fire safety issues in the forest, the residents have also highlighted the issue of traffic jams and the noisy atmosphere during weekends. “The action against one hotel can just be an eyewash. The civic body should have a concrete plan to act against all illegal activities without any further delay. What they do is just demolish one structure and then vanish. This is not the solution. We won’t keep quiet until we see a positive result,” said Ajay Daya, activist.
“We welcome the action by TMC. However, we demand for all illegal Hotels, turfs, Hookah parlours etc be demolished entirely. Only demolishing certain parts would not be effective. This enables the owners to carry on with the business. All Hotels are operating without Fire NOCs; thus, they all are illegal. This action should be coupled with strict noise and light pollution controls throughout the entire Yeoor Forest by the Forest Department and police. Similarly, all illegal compound walls should be brought down for seamless movement of wildlife,” said Nishant Bangera, founder of Muse foundation.