In a major setback to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), the Western Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has barred it from selling, transferring or granting any leasehold rights of plot number 2A in sectors 54, 56, and 58 of Nerul (West), in Navi Mumbai, for the construction of residential and commercial buildings/ structures except the area falling outside the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
Last year in June-July, CIDCO auctioned a 25,138.86 sqm plot partially falling under CRZ-I and CRZ-II. This was opposed by environmentalists. The plot, in the neighbourhood of the posh NRI Seawoods and the newly built water taxi jetty, has received a price of Rs 1.51 lakh per sqm as quoted by Bhagwati Empire. The Navi Mumbai Environment Preservation Society (NMEPS) and a group of citizens, in separate petitions before the NGT, challenged the tender process on the ground that the plot falls within CRZ1.
Later, CIDCO cancelled the auction citing low prices. A thick patch of mangroves is located in close proximity to the plot and, in fact, a part is located within 50mt of the mangrove buffer zone, the joint application by Rekha Sankhala, Manmeet Singh Khurana, Ritu Mittal, RK Narayan, Mahendra Singh Panghaal and Anjali Agarwal, said. The NMEPS, which also challenged the tender, said the plot is designated as a “No Development Zone” under the Development Plans (DP) of 2011 and 2020 and falls on the seaward side of the existing road.
The NGT went through a CRZ map prepared by the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM), Anna University, Chennai on a 1:4000 scale. The NGT observed that the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) Draft DP published on August 19, 2022, no longer shows that plot No.2A is in a ‘No Development Zone’ but has been shown partly as ‘social facility’ and partly as a ‘garden’. However, it was opposed by CIDCO.
The NGT then ordered that the said area should continue to be maintained as a ‘social facility’ or ‘garden’. Sandeep Bangia, NMEPS spokesperson said that the decision is precedent for other similar issues. “The whole fight has shown a path for common citizens to raise their voices against the destruction of the environment. We welcome the decision,” said Bangia.
NatConnect Foundation, which took up the CRZ plot issue with the Centre as well as the State governments, welcomed the ruling. “The NGT ruling upholds the environmental concerns,” said B N Kumar Director of NatConnect Foundation. He added that even MCZMA has also confirmed the green groups' stand that one-third of the 25,138.86 sqm area falls under CRZ1 and a similar area under CRZ2. CIDCO, therefore, cannot lease out these areas that it does not own, Kumar said. Anil Diggikar, managing director and vice chairman of CIDCO was not available to comment.