After being denied salt pan land, the BMC has picked another plot to start work on the much-delayed pumping station at Mahul. However, this choice has been met with dissent by the opposition parties in the Mumbai civic body, as the new site is private land and the BMC will exchange one of its plots for land from a private builder.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the BMC and Ajmera Developers had been approved by the municipal commissioner in September. The opposition has, however, strongly condemned the move, saying that it is wrong to hand over a prime plot worth crores of rupees reserved for a garden and recreation ground by dereservation. The opposition has accused the civic body of favouring a private builder and looting public money. The leader of the opposition in the BMC and Congress corporator Ravi Raja said. “I am not against the pumping station project. It is a very essential one, to prevent floods. BMC has been negotiating with the Central government for salt pan land. The administration also claims to have corresponded multiple times with the salt commissioner but the issue is not moving forward. They should have acquired the land by invoking the Disaster Management Act.”
“Even, in this case, there is no need to exchange a prime plot with a private builder. Especially a plot reserved for a garden and for recreational ground purposes. It is for Mumbaikars. The BMC could have offered transfer of development rights (TDR) to the developer instead,” he maintained.
BMC officials said that the civic body requires 15,006 sq m of land for the construction of the Mahul pumping station. Hence, an exchange of 13,390 sq m of the land parcel was agreed upon by the developer and the BMC. The civic body will transfer the TDR to the developer for the remaining 1,616 sq m, after securing approval from the state government.
The Mahul pumping station is essential to reduce flooding in Dadar, Sion, Wadala, Matunga and King’s Circle, and also affects the Harbour line train services. However, the non-availability of land has delayed the Mahul pumping station project for over a decade. After identifying the plot, the BMC issued tenders for the project multiple times. The plot previously shortlisted was a salt pan land owned by the Union commerce ministry. The civic body had even written several letters for land transfer but got little response so far. Last year, in June, tenders floated for the project were scrapped owing to the non-availability of land.
The civic body has been trying to procure land from the salt commissioner for years but hasn’t received any response. The pumping station at Mahul is part of the eight pumping stations planned under the Brimstowad project and is one of two stations which are yet to be constructed. The first two stations were built at Irla and Haji Ali in 2010. The construction of the sixth station started at Gazdarbandh in 2019. The BMC finalised the contractor for the seventh, Mogra pumping station in March 2021 but the final station at Mahul still remains on paper due to delayed land acquisition.
“We have been in correspondence and communicating with the salt commissioner since 2015 and the last letter was sent on June 10, 2021. There has been no positive response, due to which the project has been delayed. The new arrangement will lead to the project moving forward,” said a senior civic official.
“The said land is under the Coastal Regulation Zone, but it is permissible to build a stormwater drain in CRZ and will be easy to get environmental clearance,” the official added.
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