MUMBAI: In a controversial proposal, the state government plans to open up for construction a green hill slope currently occupied by slums in the prime Nepean Sea Road area of south Mumbai.
The 2.5-acre plot was marked for a garden, but the urban development department has proposed to remove this reservation and use it for “government staff quarters’’ in the city’s new development plan.
Property experts said the nomenclature “government staff quarters’’ means the plot, which is controlled by Esarac Construction, can be exploited by the developer for a slum rehabilitation scheme . “An SRA project here means this green slope suddenly has a development potential of at least Rs 2,000 crore,’’ they said.
Builder Rajat Patel, a partner in Esarac Construction, told TOI he was not aware of the government’s proposal, but said existing regulations permit a slum rehab scheme on a portion of the hill slope.
Urban development secretary Nitin Kareer, said, “There must have been a request from the government for reservation for staff quarters. But in any case, it (proposal) is in the excluded part of the development plan. So suggestions and objections will lead to a final decision. At that point all things will be considered on merit for sure.’’
It is learned that this is the only change of reservation proposed by the state in the entire D ward—where this project is sited—in the new development plan.
“We will move the court if the government deletes the reservation,’’ said Utsal Karani of Janhit Manch, a city NGO, which had filed its objection against the government’s move. “There can be no new construction within 100 feet of foothills across the state. The area will have to be maintained as an open space and reserved as a no-development zone,’’ he said.
In its objection filed before the deputy director of town planning, Janhit Manch said the state urban development department has already directed all municipal corporations and councils across the state to implement the National Green Tribunal order. The order says no construction should be permitted on an existing green hill slope. “Instructions may be issued to municipal authorities to ensure that no construction permission shall be given to any development work, which is being proposed and is located at a distance of 100 feet away from the lowest slope,’’ it says.
The notification states that urban local bodies whose development plan is under preparation or is being amended must ensure that such area is marked as a no-development zone and reserved as an open space. “In the approved development plans, such areas must be used only as open spaces and for roads,’’ it said.
An industry source said the hutment dwellers on the green hill slope can be shifted as project-affected persons to some other scheme permitted by SRA rules and regulations. “This green slope should be preserved for the stability and greenery of the entire area,’’ he said.
Interestingly, the Nepean Sea Road plot was sold to Esarac Construction for Rs one crore in 2004 by the then owner, Mina Movaghar Fusade, according to the property registration document made available to this newspaper.
The 10,433 sq m plot belonged to a Parsi, Savak Ratanji Bomanji, who sold it to Prince Sayajirao Pratapsingh Gaekwad in 1946. Gaekwad died at Cagnes Sur Mer, France in 1985, leaving behind his last will and testament in which he bequeathed the property to Mina Fusade.
When Fusade sold the land to Esarac Construction in 2004, it was already declared as a “slum’’ by the government and reserved for public purpose (recreation ground).