Even as a tug-of-war continues between the state and the Centre over ownership of salt pan land, a state government study has revealed that about 1,672 acres of such land in Mumbai are “developable”.
Mumbai has 5,378 acres of salt pan land, about 31 per cent of which are in residential and commercial belts, the study has found. The remaining is impacted by the stringent coastal regulation zone-I norms.
Officials said encroachments have gobbled 480 acres of salt pan land. These include 265 acres in the eastern suburb of Bhandup, which is home to residential colonies such as Chheda Nagar, Garodia Nagar and Kamraaj Nagarl. Some land leased out to private parties for salt works are under litigation, sources said.
Developers have been eyeing the salt pan land for long even as the state and the Centre fought over the ownership for over 33 years.
Plots used for salt cultivation were earmarked as salt pan lands following a settlement survey that took place prior to 1930. The ownership dispute ensued on February 2, 1981, when the then additional suburban collector ruled that 29 such plots collectively measuring 1336 acres, where salt cultivation had ceased, belonged to the state government. Following this order, the word “salt pan” was replaced by “Government of Maharashtra” in the record of rights for some of these lands.
Arguing that a major chunk of the land in question were acquired even before the Government of Maharashtra came into being, the Centre’s Salt Commissionerate, however, appealed against the order before the divisional commissioner, which upheld the additional collector’s order on May 27, 1991 while asking the Collector to conduct a hearing in the matter.
Claiming that all salt pan land were the Union Government’s property, the Salt Commissionerate approached the state government. On October 25, 1993, the revenue and forest department, through secretary (appeals and revision), set aside the 1981 order directing a fresh inquiry under land revenue code in the matter.
It was now the turn of the suburban collector’s office to seek reconsideration of the government’s ruling. On August 28, 1998, in response to collector’s plea, the state government asked it to conduct an inquiry and pass relevant orders.
While the collector’s office has claimed in its order that its request to Deputy Salt Commissioner’s office for submission of evidence regarding ownership was not heeded to, the latter has refuted the claim.
Both the agencies have cited court verdicts and legislations to back their cases. Various hearings and meeting have been held on the matter since. On January 4, suburban collector Sanjay Deshmukh passed an order stating that the state government owned the lands. Officials from the Salt Commissionerate also argued that the land taken over by the state government include a 246-acre plot in Bhandup, which houses central government offices and quarters for its staff.
Collector’s officials said this claim was being verified.