While approval has come in from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) for the city’s largest sewage treatment plant (STP) to come up at Malad, work on the Rs 2,020-crore project is a long way from starting. The STP, part of the civic body’s Maharashtra Sewage Disposal Project-II, still needs approval of the forest department and framing of discharge norms by the environment ministry before the tendering process can be completed.
Additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Mukherjee confirmed that the MCZMA has conveyed its approval to the BMC. “We expect that the MoEF shall finalise the discharge norms soon. We are awaiting the discharge norms and forest clearance under the Forest Conservation Act from the state. The High Court has given its clearance and both should come soon,” he said.
Civic officials are hopeful that the forest department’s approval should come soon. “The CZA clearance is a big milestone and we have waited a long time for it. However, without the discharge norms, we cannot issue work order or start any kind of construction at the site. Once the forest department issues clearance, we can start leveling the ground and cutting and replanting the mangroves,” said an official.
According to minutes of the meeting, the MCZMA’s green signal came although its expert appraisal committee felt that the proposed location was not the best site for the plant, as it would result in a loss of 35 hectares. But the members granted the approval owing to lack of open spaces in the city. They mentioned that the BMC should not consider it a norm to utilise natural spaces and added that in future, “due caution must be taken to avoid such spaces and find other alternative site even if those involve additional financial costs”.
The clearance comes with riders, including planting five times the number of mangroves that will be removed. The BMC will also have to devote 2 per cent of the project cost to conserve marine and coastal biodiversity, a report on which will have to be submitted to the MCZMA every six months. Currently, around 1,500 million litres of waste water is dumped into the sea without being treated, impacting the city’s coastline negatively. As part of the MSDP project, the civic body is setting up seven STPs that could increase the city’s water supply by upto 50 per cent.
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