Natural habitat of Gorai, Manori and Uttan being opened up for construction

It’s considered one of the last natural habitats in Mumbai — the coastal belt of Gorai, Manori and Uttan which accounts for a whopping ten per cent of the city’s land.
The coastal belt is an ecologically rich zone with beaches, hills, mangroves and mudflats.
But now, the Maharashtra government is in the process of opening up this 10,750 acre stretch of virtually pristine land for construction. A move that is raising serious concerns about whether it is subverting environmental norms and exposing this region to land sharks.
This belt is located on the outskirts of Mumbai, a city where real estate prices are among the highest in the world. It is virtually cut off from the mainland and is home to fishermen and farmers mainly from the East-Indian community. Its only claim to tourist fame — the Esselworld amusement park and the Global Vipassana Pagoda.
In early September, the State presented its plan for Gorai, Manori and Uttan, which aims to improve its connectivity to the city and open large swathes for development. Once it receives feedback from locals by early October, the State could move ahead to implement it.
Till now, just about ten per cent of this area has been developed. Nearly 90 per cent comes under a No Development Zone (NDZ), where construction is restricted. The only activities allowed are agriculture, amusement parks, golf courses, IT parks and entertainment studios. Seventy-one per cent of this falls in the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ), where development is further curbed. Two-thirds of the CRZ land is covered with mangroves where the law allows barely any construction.
The new plan carves out large swathes of land from the NDZ and frees it for construction by simply changing its zoning. In the new plan, the NDZ has shrunk to half its original size. Thirty-seven per cent of NDZ land or 3,587 acres will be designated into a Green Zone which allows a host of activities including residential and commercial construction, hospitality and entertainment. For instance, it allows the construction of bungalows, farmhouses, shopping centres, cinema theatres, resorts, hotels and theme parks.
The NDZ will also lose 20 per cent of its land or 1,962 acres to a Tourism Zone and two Development Zones, in the plan. These will also allow activities similar to the Green Zone, with one key addition. They will also allow “special commercial” activities like shopping complexes and malls.
‘Will destroy livelihoods’
Local residents have risen in opposition. “This will destroy our ecology and livelihoods,” says Neville D Souza from the Dharavi Beth Bachao Sangharsh Samiti. “There will be a rush of construction here from the mainland because land prices will be cheaper. The State plans to build two bridges to connect the city to this belt. This will increase the influx to Gorai,” he added.
Not only does the plan scuttle half the NDZ, it also unleashes massive building rights. Within the NDZ, the FSI was just 0.05 for most construction. But the building rights within the Green Zone can go up to five times higher. In the Tourism Zone, building rights are 6 times higher. Within the newly designated Development Zone I building rights can be 10 times higher.
Backdoor entry for builders’
“The green zone is a misnomer. It is a backdoor entry for builders. Large tracts of land have already been purchased by film makers and industrialists in anticipation of the plan being cleared,” alleges architect Pankaj Joshi of the Urban Design Research Institute.
“This new plan will destroy the natural ecosystem and turn this area into another concrete jungle,” said green activist Debi Goenka of the Conservation Action Trust. He also objected to the plan to build a coastal road along the shore.
“This will fall in the CRZ area, so how can it be allowed?” he asked. In fact, he points out that most development in this region could impact the fragile mangrove cover.
The State’s planning body, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) claims its proposal has taken environmental factors into consideration.
“Mangroves cover 45 per cent of the area. These will remain in the NDZ and no construction will be allowed there,” says its chief planner Uma Adusimilli.
“In fact, the earlier NDZ permitted quite a lot of development. In the Green Zone there will be more regulation,” she claims.
The MMRDA says its earlier draft of the same plan in 2012 had less development potential but locals wanted more.
Keywords: GoraiManoriUttandevelopment of coastal beltnatural habitatMMRDAmangrove habitatGreen ZoneCoastal Regulation Zone


Maharashtra drops sea-links for Mumbai, opts for coastal road

To be developed on partially reclaimed land and stilt between Nariman Point & Kandivli
Mumbaikars can now expect a pollution free ride along the western coast as the Maharashtra government has submitted its proposal to the Centre to construct 35 km coastal road between Nariman Point and Kandivli in the western suburb. The project, with about 18 access points along the entire road, entails an investment of Rs 8,000 crore. The government will soon appoint the state run Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) or the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) as the nodal agency for the project which will be implemented through a joint venture route.
Chief Minister admitted that the project was not financially viable and therefore the six lane coastal road has been proposed. The project envisages reclamation of land and construction of stilts especially on mangrove patches. Chavan informed that he has submitted the coastal road project proposal to minister of state for environment and forests Prakash Jawadekar during latter's recent visit in the city.
With Chavan's announcement, the government has given a silent burial to the Rs 5,000 crore Worli-Haji Ali sea link project awarded to the Reliance Infrastructure. The concession agreement was signed between and Reliance Infrastructure in June 2010 but the project could not take off due to administrative and environmental issues. Reliance Infrastructure will exit from the project. However, the state government has yet to formally scrap the project which would have completed by now.
Sushil Jiwarajka, former chairman of FICCI's western region told Business Standard ''Given the acute shortage of land for expanding mass transport system, the idea of coastal road seems to be the most viable option. Detailed feasibility studies be undertaken at the earliest. Precious time has already been lost on studying various options and it it time to take action and complete the project in a time bound manner.''
However, a government official said that the costal zone regulation (CRZ) clearance is key for the project to take off."The possibility of development of coastal road emerged in February 2011 after the modification to the Coastal Zone Notification where-in construction of roads on stilts have been allowed as a permitted activities. Section 3 of CRZ Notification provides land reclamation as a prohibited activity,'' the official added.
Incidentally, a section of fishing community has already voiced their opposition to the coastal road project. ''The government will have to take the fishing community into confidence before finalizing the proposed coastal road. There are 35 fishermen colonies with more than 1 million population on the western coast. The coastal road will adversely impact the livelihood of those depending on fishing activity,'' said Damodar Tandel, president, Maharashtra fishermen action forum.
Coastal Road Ride for Mumbaikars
*Project is being considered after the revised CRZ notification issued in February 2011
*Government plans to do away with sea link projects citing financial non viability
*MSRDC or to be nodal agency
*Project to be developed through JV route


Real Estate Development Council supported the official's views,

No projects alongside coastal road: BMC[may get altered later by vested people]

Wednesday, 10 December 2014 - 7:25am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Decision likely to restrict development along the proposed road

With its proposal seeking environmental clearance for the ambitious coastal road project pending before the centre, the BMC has assured the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) that it will not allow real estate projects to come up that defy existing CRZ norms, along the road.
Why is the multi-crore project being considered?
It is being considered to expedite vehicular movement through the western suburbs, connecting South Mumbai to Kandivli. Given the road will take shape along the coastal line, and may even require land to be reclaimed for laying lanes, or pass through mangroves, the corporation has been requesting the MoEF to give its nod.
What do existing CRZ norms specify?
As per the norms, construction activity is restricted up to 500 metres from the sea's high tide line. Once the road takes shape, with lanes and promenade added along the coast line, the distance between seafront and area up to which construction activities are permitted presently, will increase.
This possibility was likely to leave scope for availing space for construction activities. The corporation however, has assured the government that it will stick to the existing line up to which development is allowed, even as distance towards the sea increases once the road is built.
Waiting for green signal from Centre
A civic official said: "During a meeting with CM Devendra Fadnavis and union environment minister Prakash Javadekar recently, we were asked if constructing the road would mean removing applicability of CRZ norms. However, we assured them that whatever construction activity will take place; it will be permitted considering the existing line upto which development is allowed. This line will not be breached."
He added that the BMC hoped to procure the required nod in the wake of the centre clearing projects to construct King Shivaji's statue in the Arabian Sea.
What options are the BMC considering for constructing the arterial road?
The proposed 35.6-km road stretches between South Mumbai and Kandivli. The BMC is considering two options mainly for constructing the arterial road. The first includes reclamation in sea, while the other proposes to have road on stilt through mangroves patches in areas like Bandra.
The first option will cost Rs8,000 crore, while the second is set to cost Rs1,000 more.
What has the BMC kept as target?

The official informed that the BMC collected Rs3,500 crore in the form of premium recovered, in lieu of fungible FSI to fund the road development. The civic body has kept a target of garnering Rs2,000 crore in a fiscal, dependent of the number of projects undertaken by city developers annually.