Opening up 90 acres of land inside the eco-sensitive zone of Aarey Milk Colony bordering Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority’s (Mhada) Mumbai Housing and Area Development Board has decided to construct 26,959 housing units for tribals and slum habitants in the area.
Tenders to plan and design the township were floated on Monday. Environmental activists fear this move may damage the eco-system of the forest. SGNP and Aarey Milk Colony were declared an eco-sensitive zone by the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) in 2016.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) development plan (DP) 2034 earmarked land inside Aarey Milk Colony for rehabilitation of tribals and permitted the rehabilitation of tribals and Aarey’s slum inhabitants under Mhada and Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) redevelopment schemes. There are approximately 13,486 slum hutments and 1,795 tribal families in the area, as per SRA’s records.
According to Mhada’s tender notice, consultants will plan the construction of 2,000 houses on a land parcel of 43 acres. The houses will be a minimum of ground-plus-one story, with individual terraces and open-to-sky courtyards. The plan also includes the construction of 24,959 housing units on 47 acres to rehabilitate those living in slums around Aarey Milk Colony.
The cost of the entire project is pegged at ₹ 3,510 crore. Construction of the township will need permissions from the MoEF, Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), Coastal Regulation Zone (CZA), the BMC and the SRA.
Mhada’s chief executive officer Milind Mhaiskar and Dipendra Singh Khushwaha, chief executive officer of Mhada’s Mumbai board, were unavailable for comment.
Activist Zoru Bathena said this much construction in areas bordering SGNP was not advisable. “It will completely damage the eco-sensitive zone. We will have to approach the high court to bring a stay on the project,” said Bathena.
However Vidya Chavan, a Nationalist Congress Party legislator who has been pushing for tribal rehabilitation since 2000, approved of the plan.
“It [the plan] will rehabilitate tribals of SGNP who have lived there since 1856, slums around the park, and adivasipadas of Aarey,” said Chavan, adding that around 33,000 families had paid a fee of ₹7,000 for this rehabilitation back in 2000.
Only 13,500 of them were rehabilitated near Chandivli and the others have not got homes despite paying the fee.