‘Construction of school on Ulhas River floodplains worrisome’
Mumbai: City-based environment group Vanashakti on Monday wrote to authorities, including chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, raising alarm over continued constructions within the high flood line of the Ulhas River in Badlapur, Thane district. Encroachment in the form of a private school is the latest to crop up in the region, despite previous orders of the National Green Tribunal prohibiting any building activity on the floodplains, in addition to an amusement park and several real estate projects pointed out Vanashakti (a petitioner in Bombay High Court, seeking to revive the water body).
“On June 20, 2020, we had intimated that a wall was made on the river banks and reclamation was underway, however, we find that no action was taken and instead a full-fledged school is coming up on the river banks inside the high flood line of Ulhas River. Similarly, it has been seen that in the last five years, more and more areas of Badlapur are being inundated in monsoon due to the overflowing of the river. Instead of keeping the flood line intact and inviolate, more constructions are being encouraged,” wrote Stalin D, director, Vanashakti on Monday.
These developments are particularly concerning, environmentalists said, in light of the Maharashtra government’s recent move to reduce the Ulhas’ flood line. In a Right to Information (RIT) response last month, the state government confirmed to Navi Mumbai-based environment group NatConnect Foundation that there is a plan on the cards to redraw the river’s flood line in Badlapur, at the behest of the urban development department.
A meeting had been held on October 5 and presided over by state UD minister Eknath Shinde, who asked the state irrigation department to rework the flood line in Badlapur. However, the minutes of this meeting were not shared with Nat Connect, on grounds that there has not been any official decision on the matter.
“Such a move will be disastrous for lives and property. In 2019, Ulhasnagar and surrounding regions in Badlapur, Thane, Kalyan, Diva, Mumbra and Asangaon came under the spotlight due to unprecedented flooding, which can almost certainly be attributed to constructions within the river’s floodplains. These were made possible because in 2015 the Maharashtra government scrapped its River Regulatory Zone (RRZ) policy, which prevented constructions up to 2kms from the flood line of all rivers. We need to bring these regulations back before the situation grows worse,” said BN Kumar, director of Nat Connect Foundation.