CIDCO plans 106ha township on biodiverse Kharghar Hill Plateau
The move has invited the ire of environmentalists, who said this will adversely impact hydrology and biodiversity in the project’s immediate vicinity
Mumbai The City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) has sought the state environment department’s nod for developing a 106-hectare (ha) residential-cum-commercial township on the Kharghar Hill Plateau, in Navi Mumbai.
The move has invited the ire of environmentalists, who said this will adversely impact hydrology and biodiversity in the project’s immediate vicinity.
Located at a height of 160-260 metres above mean sea level, the Kharghar Hill Plateau is an expansive rocky outcrop that feeds many of the scenic waterfalls and waterbodies in and around Navi Mumbai, including the picturesque Pandavkada Falls, the Owe Dam and a smaller check dam near Artists’ Village. The Kharghar Valley Golf Course (KVGC), which is currently being upgraded by CIDCO from a nine-hole to an international standard 18-hole golf course, is also in close proximity to the plateau area.
Nareshchandra Singh, the co-founder of the Kharghar Wetlands and Hills citizens’ group, said, “This area has been extensively surveyed by the Bombay Natural History Society at CIDCO’s request in 2007, as a Nature Park was to come up in the area. There are patches of protected forest land surrounding the plateau. A huge development like this will completely disrupt the ecology of the area.”
A copy of BNHS report, Biodiversity Survey of Navi Mumbai Nature Park, reveals more about the biodiversity of the plateau region, which includes fauna such as the black-naped hare, small Indian civet, the Indian flying fox, and birds including the long-tailed shrike, yellow-wattled lapwing. The European roller, a passage migrant, has also been seen on the plateau. The greater spotted eagle, which is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN, has also been seen in the surrounding Kharghar Hills.
Being built at a cost of ₹18,900 crore, the Kharghar Hill Plateau project is expected to cater to a residential population of 11,985 people, and a commercial population of around 6,450 people. The amenities planned include residential buildings and bungalows, hotels and resorts and commercial plots for sale.
The project is expected to be completed within four years from the first date of construction, per documents submitted by CIDCO to the state government on August 18, for obtaining terms of reference (ToR) for the project. The project was granted ToR on August 22, allowing CIDCO to proceed with an environment impact assessment (EIA) study on the basis of which environmental clearance (EC) may be granted.
Two adivasi villages, Fanaspada and Chaphewadi, also exist within the project area, which is currently accessible by a small, 30-metre wide road abutting a Reserve Bank of India housing colony in Belapur. “The area is mainly hilly with steep slopes and dense vegetation. There is no ‘Plateau’ as such and the developable area is very less,” the CIDCO’s pre-feasibility report for the project states.
Nikhil Bhopale, the managing trustee of the Green Works Trust, who has previously surveyed the area for BNHS’ project titled ‘Survey of Biodiversity of Kharghar Hills & CBD Belapur’, said, “We have recorded a total of 181 bird species in the area. It is biologically and hydrologically a very rich site that requires concerted conservation. Developing such a vast township sets a poor precedent for the protection of the area.”