New CRZ rules protect open spaces in Mumbai’s DP; Activists say will destroy coastal ecosystem

Environment ministry says will protect open spaces marked in DP 2034, eco-sensitive areas; activists say norms relaxed to help devpt
It offers protection to only those open spaces, parks and playgrounds that have been marked in the city’s latest development plan (DP)(HT file photo)
It offers protection to only those open spaces, parks and playgrounds that have been marked in the city’s latest development plan (DP)(HT file photo)
Updated on Jan 23, 2019 07:34 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai

The Union environment ministry, in its new notification for areas under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ) issued on Friday, offers protection to only those open spaces, parks and playgrounds that have been marked in the city’s latest development plan (DP). Activists, however, feel the norms pave the way for “destruction of coastal ecosystems”.

The notification defines CRZ-II as developed land areas up to or close to the shoreline, within the existing municipal limits or in other existing legally designated urban areas, which are substantially built-up with basic civic amenities. It allows development of vacant plots in CRZ-II for construction of beach resorts and hotels or to promote tourism, subject to guidelines. “All open spaces, parks, gardens, playgrounds indicated in development plan that fall in CRZ-II shall be categorised as no-development zones (NDZ) and a floor space index (FSI) up to 15% shall be allowed only for construction of civic amenities, stadium and gymnasium meant for recreational or sports related activities. Residential or commercial use of such open spaces shall not be permissible,” read the rules.

“The notification will boost tourism in coastal areas of the country, which was untapped due to stringent regulatory framework. However, the most critical and ecologically sensitive areas have been under CRZ1A,” said a senior official from the union environment ministry. “The latest provision will help protect existing open spaces and green cover along coastal zones,” said Anil Diggikar, principal secretary, state environment department.

Not everyone is impressed. “The DP was made without reference to CRZ notification. The new rules allow DP to supersede CRZ rules, which means unrestricted construction along the entire coast,” said Stalin D, director, NGO Vanashakti. “It removes the FSI cap for redevelopment in CRZ-II, which means any amount of construction can be carried out.”

A senior official from the state government agrees with the activist. “NDZ for CRZ is different from that under DP. In CRZ areas, barring a few exceptions, mostly related to tourism, development is strictly prohibited. DP, however, has no such restriction. Not including spaces that have not made it to DP 2034 is equivalent to opening them up for development,” he said.

The notification further relaxes previous CRZ norms, increasing FSI up to 3 from 1.33 for Mumbai city and 2.7 from 1 for suburbs. The FSI for NDZ prior to this notification was 0.5, which has also now increased owing to the new DP and this notification. “Instead of safeguarding coastal ecology, protecting livelihood of communities, and providing barriers against natural disasters, we are allowing construction on the seaward side, doing away with the hazard line, and protecting the interest of builders at the cost of global ecological changes and extreme weather events,” said environmentalist Debi Goenka.

Among major changes is reducing the CRZ distance to the land area or width of the creek from the high tide line (HTL). “This will help clear redevelopment activities near bays, creeks, rivers etc. For example activities along the Mahim bay can now be cleared for redevelopment,” said Diggikar.

While CRZIII (A) is marked as NDZ, the new rules allow settlements along the areas to be opened up for development. “This will open up Koliwadas. Constructing more skyscrapers along the coastline could lead to natural disasters,” said Godfrey Pimenta, lawyer and trustee, NGO Watchdog Foundation.

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Friday, October 29, 2021