December 26, 2020 5:30:07 am
In the wake of the Bombay High Court’s (HC) stay on the Mumbai Metro car shed at Kanjurmarg, the Maharashtra government is examining the option of relocating the project on a land parcel in Goregaon, which has been classified as a ‘natural area’ and a ‘no-development zone’ in Mumbai’s development plan (DP).
While some other alternative locations are also being looked at, a senior state official confirmed to The Indian Express that the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has approached the state’s Urban Development (UD) department for sanctioning the reservation for a car shed on a part of a 500-acre privately-owned land sprawl in Pahadi Goregaon.
But to accede to MMRDA’s request, the department will have to reclassify the land use plan. When Mumbai’s new DP was first placed before citizens, a bulk of this land was classified as ecologically sensitive, and was tagged as “natural area (NA)”. The DP classifies mangroves, mudflats, ecologically vital salt pans and hills, etc as NA, where construction activity is barred. Barring a 25-metre-wide coastal road, no construction was envisaged on the patch. The remainder of the land was also tagged as a no-development zone (NDZ) and shown affected by the coastal regulation zone. Additionally, in 2017, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation even withdrew the coastal road reservation.
Documents also show that the previous Devendra Fadnavis-led regime had first initiated the proposal for modifying the land user. On September 1, 2018, the previous government, while sanctioning the new DP, had separately notified its intention to introduce over 2,000 substantial changes to land use and FSI in the DP, for which public suggestions and objections were reinvited. One of them involved declassification of the Goregaon land as NA, and re-reservation of bulk of this land for Metro rail car shed, National Law University and Other Courts (Human Rights Courts, Family Courts, Motor Vehicle Tribunal, etc), and an 18-metre-wide road.
Eyeing the Pahadi land as a possible alternative for the car shed if the Kanjurmarg land remains unavailable, the MMRDA now wants the UD department to sanction this pending modification. Ironically when the Fadnavis regime proposed the modification, there was stiff opposition to it. Alleging that the land in question was “mangrove land”, the then Leader of Opposition (Assembly) Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who has since joined the BJP, had even accused the Fadnavis government of “passing undue benefits to the land owner to the tune of Rs 80,000 crore” by way of the modification, a contention that Fadnavis had contested. The Congress, at that time, had even sought a probe in this regard. In the modified plan, documents show that about 98 hectare has been reserved for the university and other courts and another 221 hectare for the car shed, with reservations proposed even on the “NA” portion.
A senior official, meanwhile, said that the land holder had also submitted a report by the government’s mangrove cell stating that the land is “clear of mangroves.” But he also admitted that “there is dense mangrove vegetation on either side of the land where the construction is to take place.” So long as the Goregaon land is classified as NA, bulk of the land remains unbuildable. But if the modification is sanctioned, the land holders can opt for development of the reservations under the accommodation reservation (AR) principle, which will entitle them to more FSI (full floor space index) than permissible on any similar unreserved plot.
Under the AR principle, a private land owner in Mumbai can avail the entire development potential of a reserved land upon developing the said amenity for which the land is reserved. The DP further allows additional incentive buildable space in lieu of the buildable portion utilised for developing the reservation. The land holders had previously objected to the “NA” classification. Back in 1995, they had proposed the development of a golf course, a club house, and bungalows on the land. While the BMC had even given them initial permission, this was later withdrawn after the Union Environment Ministry suspended the environment clearance to the development, following objections raised by green activists.
In October this year, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had scrapped the contentious Aarey car shed project of the Colaba-Bandra-Seepz (Metro 3) line, which Fadnavis had initiated. On October 1, his government had instead allotted the 102-acre Kanjurmarg land at no cost to the MMRDA for building an integrated car shed for multiple Metro lines. But on December 16, an HC order that stayed the construction at Kanjurmarg based on petitions filed by the Centre and private parties against the state’s allotment, put a spanner in the plans. Following the court’s stay, the government has been scouting for alternative locations to shift the car shed.
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