Sena MP, BJP MLA write to authorities over ‘illegal construction’ on beach
Shiv Sena member of parliament (MP) Gajanan Kirtikar and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member of legislative assembly (MLA) Bharati Lavekar have written to authorities seeking clarification on the ongoing construction work at Versova beach which is allegedly in violation of permissions given by the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA).
The letters also reveal that Aaditya Thackeray, state environment minister and guardian minister for Mumbai suburbs, has ordered a “temporary stay” on the work, which has led to the creation of a 1.2km long wall about eight metres from the original high-tide line, with tetrapods dumped on its seaward side. While HT reported on the alleged violations on August 6, it was unable to independently confirm this fact.
The beach is a CRZ-I area where no construction or reclamation work is permitted. The same has also been noted in multiple meetings by the MCZMA when considering projects to “beautify” Versova. In 2017, the Public Works Department (PWD) was given permission to build anti-erosion infrastructure but without reclaiming any portion of the beach.
Nevertheless, a large portion of Versova’s beach has been reclaimed. Earth has been backfilled into an eight metre space between the original high-tide line and the new anti-erosion wall. PWD officials confirmed to HT that there are plans to develop this area into a promenade, akin to those at Carter Road or Marine Lines. On the seaward side, the beach has been filled with tetrapods, which some environmentalists allege is an attempt to hide the increased rate of erosion caused by construction of the Coastal Road further south.
Kirtikar, who first met with citizens on August 14, wrote to the PWD -- which is executing the construction work -- along with the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) and the MCZMA, asking them to send representatives for a site visit on August 25. He added that he has been attempting to build an anti-erosion wall along Versova beach since at least 2017, after realising that tidal water enters the properties of those living in nearby settlements. “I am of the view that action needs to be taken in such a manner that the protective wall can be constructed and the citizens can also use the Chowpatty,” Kirtikar wrote.
In a second letter to Aaditya Thackeray, dated August 16, Lavekar took credit for the work and stated that she had first raised the issue with then chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, and with Union minister Nitin Gadkari as early as 2015. Permissions were granted from the Centre by way of a letter on May 15, 2015, she stated. Lavekar said, “I request a meeting as soon as possible to find out the facts regarding the work. All work permits and objections should be checked.” She too, referenced the “temporary stay” over the project by the state environment minister.