Kandivli residents are a disgruntled lot. They have written to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) complaining against local Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) Gopal Shetty on whose behest, over the last two months, an acre of wetland covered with mangroves and the buffer land adjacent to it is being dumped with debris so that a park can be constructed at the same spot. They have alleged that he is grossly misusing the MLA funds, which are supposed to be spent for strengthening and augmentation of infrastructure facilities in each assembly constituency.
As per government rules, an MLA can suggest small works of capital nature to be done in their constituencies up to the tune of Rs4 crore in a year with each individual project not exceeding Rs 2 crore.
The plot of land, in Charkop, Sector 8, incidentally is marked as a recreational ground, but experts opine that it is not beyond the purview of the Supreme Court judgment, over ruling any layout of zonal proposal of Development Plan.
When this correspondent visited the disputed spot earlier this week, he not only saw that the buffer zone touching the wetland was filled with debris, but also hoardings stating that Shetty was accepting responsibility for the act.
Environmentalist Debi Goenka said mangroves fall under Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)-I, as ruled by Supreme Court in 2011 and even the highest State Government officials are not authorised to make any changes as per their whims or fancy. “The case is a perfect example of gross violation of power and public funds, by those in power,” he said.
Last month, local activist Reji Abraham filed a complaint with the BMC, stating that strong action should be taken against the civic authorities, especially their legal department, for not acting against illegal activities.
He alleged that action should be taken against them with regards to the Bombay High Court’s 2005 order prohibiting any kind of construction or related activities within 50 metres of mangroves.
“Since last two to three years the Charkop area in Kandivli West, which was covered with a lush belt of mangroves, is facing large-scale illegal constructions especially in and around Charkop village and Sector 8 and Sector 9.
This is due to overt and covert support provided by the municipal authorities to the land mafia and unscrupulous builders. BMC is the planning authority and their permission is mandatory. The Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (MHADA) owns the land. After I complained to the BMC, they sent a notice to MHADA. But MHADA’s letter to them clearly states that no illegal construction should be carried out there,” said Abraham.
When contacted Assistant Commissioner BMC, R Central Ward, RB Bole, stated that after inspecting the plot it was found that fresh filling had been done on the disputed plot and the work was being financed by the local MLA from his funds. “We have issued a stop work notice, along with our observations (SUNDAY MiD DAY has a copy of both) and all appropriate action is being taken,” he said.
N Vasudevranan, chief conservator of forests who is also in charge of the mangrove cell, Maharashtra, opined that the policy guidelines stipulated by the Bombay High Court is applicable nationwide and not affected by state policies. “We are taking all appropriate actions, which come under the gamut of our jurisdiction,” he said.
MLA Gopal Shetty, whose name appears on the banners, informed that he has allocated only Rs 10 lakh for the project. “No local should have a problem with the construction of a play ground and a recreational garden, as it is being solely developed for them. There are politically motivated people, who would rather see illegal hutments on a recreation ground plot, rather than a play ground, which can be utilised by all residents,” he said. Shetty added that due to the complaints, work has been stopped at present but it would resume at the earliest once all hurdles are cleared.