Uran wetlands that need ‘highest protection’ may see development
Areas already identified under the highest level of protection under coastal protection laws have been opened up for development along the eastern seafront in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, according to the new coastal zone management plan (CZMP). These are draft maps and the Maharashtra government has called for suggestions and objections till March 1. City environmentalists have objected to the areas, which include wetlands and mangrove forests, being recategorised.
Currently, all proposed wetland areas in Uran, including Panje, are open for development and marked as coastal regulation zone (CRZ) II (developable land areas up to or close to the shoreline, within the existing municipal limits) as per the draft maps. In November 2019, the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) had informed the Bombay high court (HC) that Panje and Karanje holding ponds were identified as CRZ 1A (under which construction or tourism activities are not permitted in the demarcated area).
On Tuesday, non-governmental organisation (NGO) Natconnect Foundation submitted a letter to environment department, calling Panje, Pagote, and the entire Dronagiri area in Uran being categorised as inter-tidal zones, or green zones, in the new CZMP. This would bring them under CRZ 2019 rules and protect the wetlands and mangrove forests from being reclaimed for the Navi Mumbai Special Economic Zone (NMSEZ).
“The government-owned, marshy land Panje, which is normally full of water, ought to be protected as it is the source of survival for the fishing community. The City Industrial Development Corporation Limited (Cidco) designated Panje as a holding pond, as a flood-control mechanism for the upcoming Dronagiri node. Yet there are all-out efforts to reclaim the area for development projects,” said BN Kumar, director, NatConnect Foundation.
HT had reported in January that CIDCO’s Dronagiri development plan had marked the Panje-Dongari stretch as sectors 16 to 28, planned for NMSEZ, an integrated industrial township across 4,000 acres. NMSEZ is owned 26% by CIDCO and 74% by other investors. “We are not going to be challenging the draft CZMP as the land has already been handed over to private companies for development. The CRZ status of the area needs to be decided by the state,” said a senior Cidco official.
The state environment department and MCZMA, in response to right-to-information applications, clarified that no permission has been sought for construction at the wetlands in Uran. “This shows that all work by NMSEZ and Cidco are illegal and they deserve strict punishment,” said Nandakumar Pawar of the NGO Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan.
Sanjay Sandanshiv, undersecretary (environment department), said, “Areas marked as CRZ 1A cannot be changed under the fresh rules. The information has also been shared with the HC. We will evaluate the objection and ensure such eco-sensitive zones are protected.”
HT also a copy of the objection letter filed by an advocate February 24, against the CZMP maps and CRZ 2019 for leaving out natural areas, which HT had reported last week. “The CZMP maps and CRZ 2019 have been drafted to benefit the builder lobby who is awaiting the opportunity to grab and build on restricted coastal zones,” alleged advocate Siddh Vidya. “The entire notification of 2011 has been diluted and loopholes created.”