Eco-activists raise concern over TMC’s nod for building bungalows in SGNP buffer zone

The bungalows, Hindustan Times has learnt, are being developed by Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) corporator Hanmant Jagdale, who was awarded a commencement certificate for the project in April last year
Activists, however, termed these constructions as illegal. (HT Photo)
Activists, however, termed these constructions as illegal. (HT Photo)
Updated on May 27, 2022 06:21 PM IST
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ByPrayag Arora-Desai

Mumbai: Environmentalists and concerned residents of Thane have raised alarm over the construction of 20 residential bungalows in Yeoor village, which lies within the notified eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), where development activities are restricted.

The bungalows, Hindustan Times has learnt, are being developed by Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) corporator Hanmant Jagdale, who was awarded a commencement certificate for the project in April last year.

Construction of the bungalows began a little over a month ago, as per eyewitness accounts. The commencement certificate (Certificate No. 4534) states that the project site is located in the revenue boundaries of Yeoor village, having survey numbers 34/1 and 34/2. When contacted for a comment on Thursday, Jagdale confirmed that the work is ongoing, but clarified that the contractors will not be proceeding with construction beyond plinth work until given a go-ahead by the ESZ monitoring committee, which regulates certain activities within the buffer zone around SGNP.

“Yes, the bungalows are being built in the ESZ in Yeoor, which is classified as a ‘green zone 1’, wherein construction is a regulated activity. We have taken permission from TMC for the same, and will also be procuring a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the ESZ monitoring committee. These are strictly residential developments and will be built as per the rules, unlike so many other encroachments in Yeoor range which are completely unauthorised and are undertaking commercial activities like hotels, restaurants, spas, party lawns and so on which are strictly prohibited in ESZ,” Jagdale said.

Activists, however, termed these constructions as illegal. “Construction is not a prohibited activity under the SGNP ESZ notification of 2016. However, it states that any construction needs to be in consonance with the Zonal Master Plan for the delineated ESZ, which was supposed to be prepared by the state government within two years of the notification. It has been six years, and no zonal plan has ever been published. So, for the Thane Municipal Corporation to sanction any work of this kind is in direct violation of the Centre’s rules,” said Godfrey Pimenta of the Mumbai-based Watchdog Foundation, who earlier this week also wrote to the state government seeking action against raising of bungalows in Yeoor.

Yogesh Mundra, a Thane resident, and activist, who has also spoken out against the ongoing construction, said, “Yeoor is one of the last remaining green patches in Thane city. It is the responsibility of authorities to protect the area as per the mandate of the SGNP eco-sensitive zone notification. It is shocking that the municipal corporation is allowing one of its own office-bearers to clear the area of trees in such a manner. Any regulated activity in the ESZ also requires clearance from the union environment ministry, which has not been obtained in this case.”

Officials, too, said they are investigating the matter. Uday Dhage, district forest officer (Thane), who visited the project site on Thursday afternoon, said, “The area is very much part of the ESZ. No construction work should have commenced without first getting the NOC of the ESZ monitoring committee. I have sent the committee a report today and asked them to take action.”

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