State seeks salt pans in Bhandup-Kanjur as part of Dharavi redevelopment
The salt pans – the last surviving open spaces in Mumbai, which also act as holding ponds for rain water – are proposed to be given to DRP Private Limited, a special purpose vehicle formed by Adani Realty, on lease for 99 years
MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government plans to send a proposal to the Centre for 283.4 acres of salt pans in Bhandup and Kanjur, in Mumbai’s eastern suburbs, to make transit camps for slumdwellers when the Dharavi Redevelopment Project (DRP) takes off. Part of the land will also be used for rental accommodation for those who are not eligible for free tenements.
The proposal was cleared after a discussion in the state cabinet on Monday.
The salt pans – the last surviving open spaces in Mumbai, which also act as holding ponds for rain water – are proposed to be given to DRP Private Limited, a special purpose vehicle formed by Adani Realty, on lease for 99 years.
Most of it owned by the Centre and a part by the state the land, along the eastern express highway (EEH), has been given to lessees. It includes 120.5 acres of Arthur Salt Works, 76.9 acres of Jenkins Salt Works, 58.5 acres of Jamasp Salt Works and 27.5 acres of Agar Sulemansah land.
According to the proposal, the Centre will now mark the land which belongs to it, which will be taken on lease for DRP. The part of land owned by the state will be given by the collectorates. The state will give market rent to the Centre from the day it is acquired. Significantly, the state will also pay for the resettlement and rehabilitation of salt pan workers. According to sources, the proposal was hurriedly cleared before the code of conduct is implemented for Lok Sabha polls next month.
Earlier, the state had planned to allocate two plots in Mulund for the purpose. However, local residents protested as they did not want slum dwellers in their backyard.
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) carried out a survey of all salt pans in 2018, when it found that swathes of the land in Mumbai were affected due to provisions of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), while some properties were in dispute and very small areas were available for development.
The DRP Private Limited has promised houses of 350 sq feet to all Dharavi residents, which is 17 per cent more than the other projects. Earlier, dwellers of informal settlements in Maharashtra were given houses measuring 269 sq ft. Since 2018, the state government started giving them homes measuring between 315 sq ft and 322 sq ft, in line with the minimum area mandated under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for houses for the urban poor.
Ineligible residential tenements in Dharavi would be given accommodation under the proposed affordable rental housing policy, as per the state’s defined norms, an earlier press note of Adani Realty had said. The quantum of ineligible persons is yet to be known.
Reacting to Monday’s development, environmentalist D Stalin of NGO Vanshakti said, “Builders in Mumbai have been eyeing salt pan lands for a while, and if allowed it will mark the end of these spaces in MMR. It is completely misleading to suggest that this is the only place which can be used for rental housing. These come under CRZ provisions and wetland rules, and are locations for intertidal activity. If the government wants to develop Dharavi, they can do it without touching open spaces of Mumbai.”
Environmentalist Nandkumar Pawar said, “Most of the leases of the salt pans have expired and the lessees have filed several cases. In 2015, a 315-acre space was proposed for low-cost housing. The ecology will be damaged if development is allowed here. During the 2005 floods, many of the eastern suburbs were protected as flood water went into the salt pans.”