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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

‘Metro Bhavan work needs Centre’s nod’

mumbai Updated: Oct 15, 2019 23:58 IST
Hindustantimes
         

Environmentalists have objected to the ongoing soil-testing work for the Metro Bhavan at Aarey Milk Colony, claiming that the area is an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and the permission for construction can be given only by the environment ministry.

On October 11, the Aarey’s CEO, Nathu Rathod, permitted the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to initiate construction, including soil testing, bringing in machinery and equipment, at the 2.03-hectare plot, which would lead to the felling of at least 70 trees. On Monday, activist Zoru Bhathena, sent a letter to Rathod, opposing the work.

The letter says that the area in question formed a ‘green zone’ or ‘no-development zone’ as per the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation development plan (DP) 2034 and allegedly fell within the ESZ of the SGNP. In such cases, the letter said, permission for construction can be given only by the environment ministry.

Aarey CEO said permission was issued only for land parcel 589, which was already transferred to MMRDA. “We granted permission only to allow MMRDA to bring in their machinery, and also informed them to ensure all other areas of Aarey’s natural ecology remain untouched,” said Rathod.

MMRDA reiterated that this was only one among several permissions and work had not commenced yet. “We are not aware if the site falls within SGNP’s ESZ. If it does, permission will be sought from authorities,” said an MMRDA official.

Jitendra Ramgaonkar, member secretary, SGNP ESZ committee, said, “We have not received any proposal from MMRDA so far, and we will need to check whether this zone falls within the ESZ at all.”

“Any permission for commencing work [at an ESZ] needs to be granted by the Union environment ministry not the Aarey CEO,” said Bhathena. “Permitting soil testing is a violation of environmental laws and the ESZ notification,” he added.

The 32-storey Metro Bhavan will operate and control 14 metro lines — a network of 337km — in and around Mumbai.

In August, the state urban development department had issued a notification changing the land-use of the plot from being a ‘no-development zone’ to allow this construction and invited suggestions and objections. While over 50,000 citizens objected to the construction, the revised land-use is still to be finally notified.

“If the land-use has not changed from ‘no-development zone’, this work stands illegal,” said Bhatena.

Stalin D, director, Vanashakti said, “Rules have been made easy enough now for MMRDA to seek clearance only from the SGNP ESZ committee and commence construction.”