In a city as congested as Mumbai, one would normally expect to hear reports on open spaces disappearing due to construction activity. But in an unusual turn of events, a huge land mass has virtually bobbed out of the sea along the coastline.
City’s town planners have just stumbled upon a land area totalling 1,497 hectare or 14.96 square kilometre just outside the city’s limit along the eastern coastal front.
The good news is that the mudflat, which stretches from Airoli in the eastern suburbs of Mumbai to Sewri in Central Mumbai, has transformed itself into a beautiful mangrove forest.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has included the newly found land mass within Mumbai limit’s in the city’s revised development plan or DP.
The development basically means the city’s mangrove forest cover has just risen from 4,663 hectare to 6,160 hectare. Mumbai also has another 335 hectare of mudflats.
“We have marked it as a natural area and plan to preserve it. It would be out of bounds for construction,” said Ramanath Jha, the state-appointed Officer on Special Duty (OSD) for revision of the development plan. Jha added, “Satellite images captured the land mass when the city’s existing land use was mapped as part of the revision process.”
A previous draft of the revised development plan, rejected by the state government, had kept the land outside Mumbai limits. “But when we noticed that the area was hugging the city limits and existed in a no man’s land, we proposed its addition as an open space,” Jha said.
But citizens might have to wait for a while before they get to access the open space. “We plan to preserve it the way it is at this moment since it is still not in a state where it can be thrown open to people,” Jha said.
Civic commissioner Ajoy Mehta, however, said the civic body had plans to use this newly added space for nature trails in near future. “We are very clear that this area would remain locked for construction activity. It must be enjoyed only as an open space,” he said.
The land mass was not to be seen when the existing development plan was unveiled. “Satellite images first captured its existence from 2009 onwards,” a senior civic official said.
Also, while town planners feel that a natural sedimentation process was behind the formation of the land mass from the sea, Mehta told The Indian Express that he would commission a study to delve on reasons on how it was formed.
Meanwhile, despite a public backlash, Mehta said his administration had no plans to withdraw the proposal to reclaim 300 acres of the Arabian Sea off Cuffe Parade to build the city’s largest park. “A retaining wall has already been built around the area long ago. We are in fact protecting it from construction by marking it as a park,” Mehta said.
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