Mumbai: Activist alleges manipulation of CZMP, government launches probe

28 February,2024 07:28 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  A Correspondent

Green activist’s complaint leads to investigation into alleged violation of coastal norms

Ulwe coastline after 2019

Key Highlights

Quickly responding to a green activist's complaint to the prime minister against a "faulty" Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) maps that pushed the high tide line (HTL) into the Arabian Sea, the Centre has asked the Maharashtra government to probe and report back.

NatConnect Foundation Director B N Kumar has complained to the PM that the CZMP-2019 by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has not taken the ground realities into account and changed the coastal regulation zone status of Raigad district.

For example, Kumar allegedly said, "Landfill done for a temporary casting yard set up at Ulwe for the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) has been considered as permanent reclamation. The landfill on intertidal wetlands, mangroves, and mudflats was done in 2019, whereas the Google Earth map of 2018 clearly showed the presence of the massive biodiversity area."

Ulwe coastline in 2018

Kumar alleged that this alteration of the coastal area was done illegally and in an unauthorised manner. NGO NatConnect Foundation drew the attention of the prime minister to the fact that the natural HTL was thus pushed back into the sea, permanently changing the status of the land.

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It is said that this was done with inputs from the state government or its agencies. "With this, the sensitive CRZ1 area is now wrongly considered as CRZ-2, which facilitates construction. This has allegedly led to the MCZMA increasing the buildable area for projects such as a religious structure that has been planned in the area. As per the initial and conditional CRZ nod for the religious structure given in May 2023, roughly three-fourths of the 10-acre plot was out of bounds for construction," Kumar alleged.

He also said that of the 40,000 sq m plot, 2,748.18 sq m was under CRZ1A, 25,656.58 sq m in CRZ2, while 11,595 sq m was outside CRZ. The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) thus permitted construction on only non-CRZ areas.

"But with the finalisation of the CZMP-2019 that was considered for the final CRZ clearance for the religious structure, the nature of the plot has changed dramatically to: CRZ-IA (2748.18 sqm), CRZ-II (7729.28 sqm), and partly outside CRZ (29523.00 sqm)," Kumar explained.

NatConnect also argued that this is going to have disastrous consequences for the coastline, particularly in view of the rising sea levels which are a reality that the world is faced with. Kumar also presented the Google Earth maps of the temporary casting yard area in support of his argument.

Acting on the activist's complaint, the MOEFCC has asked the MCZMA to examine the issue and file a report. The letter with the signature by Wren Mishra, deputy secretary to the Government of India, also asked the MCZMA to act if the grievance is found to be affirmative.

"The state government-owned CIDCO has been liberally leasing out these areas to various projects such as JNPA and the casting yard for the MTHL," Nandakumar Pawar, head of Sagar Shakti, said.

The wrong CZMP has impacted the coastal area in Uran too. Mudflats, rich fishing zones, and wetlands are being wrongly treated as developable areas and leased out projects such as JNPA, Pawar said and warned of disastrous consequences for the coastal areas if this trend goes unchecked.

Year landfill on intertidal wetlands, mangroves, and mudflats was done

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