Victory for Navi Mumbai residents as NGT rejects CIDCO’s petition to sell CRZ plot | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Victory for Navi Mumbai residents as NGT rejects CIDCO’s petition to sell CRZ plot

Apr 26, 2024 06:26 AM IST

NGT rejects CIDCO's review petition, bars sale of CRZ plot in Navi Mumbai, citing environmental concerns. Residents celebrate victory against powerful institution.

Navi Mumbai: After months of protesting, campaigning and fighting a legal battle to save a Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) plot in NRI Seawoods Colony, the National Green Tribunal (NGT), a specialised judicial body that handles environmental cases, gave a verdict in the people’s interest by rejecting a review petition by CIDCO challenging its order barring the sale of the plot.

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HT Image

The NGT (Western Zone) bench comprising justice Dinesh Kumar Singh, judicial member and Dr Vijay Kulkarni, expert member barred CIDCO from auctioning nearly two-thirds of the 25,000 sq metre plot number in sector 54-56 which falls under CRZ 1A and 2 categories.

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For context, CRZ 1 areas are ecologically sensitive areas which are essential in maintaining the ecosystem of the coasts. These include mangroves and coral reefs. CRZ-2 zones include areas that have already developed till the shoreline of the coast. Construction of unauthorised structures is prohibited in this zone.

The bench had limited the development projects to the non-CRZ area and even suggested that CIDCO could spare it for civic facilities which Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation had planned as per its draft development plan.

CIDCO had however, challenged the order, claiming that it had been given on the basis of the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) of 2011 while the new CZMP of 2019 was notified on September 26, 2023, before the order was issued. It claimed that the new CZMP reduced the CRZ limit and hence would have benefited its case and should have been taken into consideration. The same bench vide its order on April 22 has now rejected CIDCO’s contention.

The Navi Mumbai Environment Preservation Society (NMEPS) and a group of citizens that include Rekha Sankhala, Manmeet Singh Khurana, Ritu Mittal, RK Narayan, Mahendra Singh Panghaal and Anjali Agarwal had successfully challenged the CIDCO attempts to auction the plot earlier on the ground that the plot falls within CRZ1. They vehemently opposed the review petition through their advocates Zaman Ali, Meennaz Kakalia and Akash Rebello.

According to Sankhala, “The advocates did a fantastic job of presenting to the judges the previous judgements which clearly stated that once the order was reserved, which was on September 15, 2023, in our case, no new development would matter nor could any affidavit or application be accepted as all arguments had come to an end. We are delighted that the two judges accepted our argument and have rejected CIDCO’s attempt to once again disturb the environment.”

She added, “This is a collective victory of the residents of Navi Mumbai, who protested, formed a human chain and have supported the legal battle. We also received morale-boosting support from former corporator Netra Shirke through whom we could enlist the support of MLA Ganesh Naik.”

She added, “We expect CIDCO to go to the Supreme Court now and hence have filed a caveat in the High Court and Supreme Court. All this costs a lot of money but the crowdfunding from the residents of the city is helping.”

Stated Jayant Hudar an environment activist, “It is a shame that CIDCO is insisting upon selling a plot close to the creek. It had earlier withdrawn its auction last year citing poor response, but due to residents’ pressure. It wants to sell the plot and hence filed the review petition.

Hudar added, “Irrespective of what the old or the new law says, why can’t it leave this plot and sell other barren areas which it has? Isn’t there a need to leave something for the next generation?”

Former corporator Netra Shirke hailed it as a victory of the common man against a powerful institution. Shirke added, “Several residents stood up against CIDCO’s hegemony and contributed from their pockets to this fight to save the identity of the city. We pride ourselves in the fact that Navi Mumbai with its wetlands, flamingos and other natural resources is different from other cities. CIDCO, which has no role to play anymore here, wants to leave it destroyed.”

Explained Shirke, “A thick patch of mangroves is located in close proximity to the plot and, in fact, part of the land is located within the mangrove buffer zone. The plot is designated as a “No Development Zone” under the Development Plans of 2011 and 2020 and it falls on the seaward side of the existing road.”

Alleged Shirke, “One could understand using the plot for road or other infrastructure work needed by the residents. Here the objective is financial gain through development of residential and commercial buildings in an eco-sensitive area that will only benefit CIDCO and the developers.”

Despite repeated attempts, CIDCO officials could not be reached for comments.

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