In a move that will impact new real estate projects coming up in Mumbai’s eastern and western suburbs and much of Thane district, the forest department has asked the municipal corporations of Mumbai and Thane to not sanction construction projects over 20,000 square metres within a 10-km radius of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park unless developers get a green clearance from the National Board of Wild Life (NBWL).
The move is likely to add to the procedural delays in several ongoing and proposed projects between Borivli and Bandra and from Sion to Thane city, all of which come within the 10-km buffer zone, in addition to a few areas within Thane district.
The directive is in keeping with a 2006 Supreme court order in a case filed by Goa Foundation against indiscriminate mining around forest areas in the tiny coastal state.
The forest department’s directive came in the form of a letter dated December 3, which was sent by Vikas Gupta, Chief Conservator of Forests and Director of Sanjay Gandhi National Park, to commissioners of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and Thane Municipal Corporation.
The letter states that in keeping with the apex court ruling and subsequent orders issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), “building and other construction projects having built-up area more than 20,000 sqm will need the clearance of the NBWL.”
It further states that the planning agencies should insist that upcoming projects falling in this category submit necessary documents to the forest office in order to get the NBWL permission.
“It came to our notice that most projects were bypassing the NOC requirement as the planning agencies never cared to implement the MOEF orders. But now the NBWL has become more strict about projects obtaining its clearance,” said Gupta.
Earlier this year, the department submitted its proposal demarcating the eco-sensitive zone from the boundary of the 104 sq km SGNP. According to the proposal, the actual buffer zone that requires protection, to preserve the vegetation as well as to prevent man-animal conflict, is only an area of 0.1 km to 2 km from the periphery of the national park. However, the MOEF is yet to notify the proposal and until then, any non-forestry activity, especially construction over 20,000 sqm, requires an No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the NBWL.
Gupta added that in a city such as Mumbai, a 10-km radius would have far-reaching implications on most projects. “The actual width of the proposed eco-sensitive zone is maximum 2 kms at some places. It has been marked by including areas with ample vegetation and excluding those that are already densely urbanized and hence do not require further development to be regulated,” said Gupta.
He added that until the MOEF notifies the regulated zone as proposed by the department, developers with projects within the 10 km zone will have to get wildlife clearance from NBWL only after which will the MOEF issue the mandatory Environment Clearance.
Builder Sunil Mantri, president of the National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO), said that a majority of the buffer zone area falls in residential zone and making NOC mandatory for such projects would only lead to unnecessarily delays. “There are already 60 NOCs that real estate projects require to procure from state and central agencies, which takes anywhere between one to three years. While we are all for protecting wildlife areas, there is a need to rationalize the regulated area in an already heavily urbanised Mumbai,” said Mantri.