Aksa beach in Mumbai to get an anti-erosion wall; environmentalists remain vigilant
A year after it was deferred by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) last year, a proposal by the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) for “sea front development and beatification at Aksa beach” was given limited nod in June, with permissions granted only for construction of an anti-sea erosion wall and parks and recreational grounds, as per the provisions of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), 2011.
The minutes of MCZMA’s last meeting, held on June 10 and 11, were accessed by HT only this week, as the authority’s website remained inaccessible owing to a technical error between June and early October.
While according permission for the works in its 155th meeting earlier this year, MCZMA had clearly stated that other activities proposed by MMB, including parking spaces, gyms, volleyball courts and a food plaza, were prohibited in view of CRZ regulations. MCZMA also instructed MMB to ensure that no construction takes place on the beach itself.
Since MCMZA’s approval, however, similar seafront developments (by public works department) at Versova Beach and Girgaum Chowpatty (by the municipal corporation) have been found to be in violation of CRZ regulations, with large portions of the sandy beaches being reclaimed or used as dumping grounds.
Environmentalists have raised the issue at multiple levels, including with local legislators and parliamentarians.
“A trend seems to be emerging wherein authorities apply for CRZ clearance to carry out some permissible activities, and then during the execution, they end up violating the protected area. Take Versova, for example, where pretty much half of the sandy beach has been completely reclaimed under the guise of building an anti-sea erosion wall, and a promenade-like space has come up within the protected area. Similarly, at Girgaum Chowpatty, too, reclamation work is happening in the CRZ-1 area. Aksa Beach has also been on the radar for development, and it is important for citizens to remain vigilant so that we do not lose another sandy beach in Mumbai,” said environmentalist Zoru Bhatena, who has mounted official responses to happenings at both Girgaum and Versova.
However, he also commended MCZMA for deferring permissions to MMB for the construction of non-permissible utilities at Aksa. MMB’s proposal is currently awaiting a nod from the Maharashtra State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA).
“The permissions to go ahead with anti-erosion wall were given as part of CRZ clearance already granted for essential maintenance work in March 2019. The proponent later sought amendment in CRZ clearance, which has been granted with strict limitations. MMB has not been allowed to carry out any work on the beach itself,” said an environment department official privy to the matter.