Navi Mumbai: Environmentalists Decry De-Reservation Of Water Bodies In New Development Plan

Navi Mumbai: Environmentalists Decry De-Reservation Of Water Bodies In New Development Plan

NMMC published its new development plan for the first time since its inception 33-years-ago.

Bhalchandra ChorghadeUpdated: Saturday, March 02, 2024, 02:18 AM IST
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NMMC | File photo

Stating that de-reservation of plots by Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMCV) on ‘protected’ water bodies is a major environmental shock, the environmentalists from Navi Mumbai are of the view that these plots have been de-reserved under the guise of development for the benefit of real estate sector. NMMC published its new development plan for the first time since its inception 33-years-ago. The plan is aimed at guiding the city's growth and development over the next two decades.

“The de-reservation of water bodies is a major environmental shock for the city. This is a highly short-sighted approach,” Director of NatConnect Foundation, B N Kumar said and added that they had suggested the Flamingo City name for Navi Mumbai when the municipal corporation was painting flamingos on the city’s walls and bridges in 2019.

Later, the then municipal commissioner Abhijit Bangar declared that the flamingo destinations, namely wetlands, must be conserved, Kumar said adding, “Bangar wrote to the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) to handover the DPS Lake to the NMMC for conservation and maintenance with the help of BNHS, but CIDCO did not agree to that. Now, it is unfortunate to see the NMMC de-reserving wetlands for creating concrete jungles.”

Wetlands are important not only to preserve the biodiversity, but supporting the local community which depend on fishing. Moreover, the wetlands serve as holding ponds that absorb excess water. The projects that would come up on these lands would also not survive the floods and rising sea levels which is a reality now. Yet, the urban planners are bent on destroying them, they had said.

Echoing similar feelings, Founder of Save Navi Mumbai Environment Group, Sunil Agrawal said, “The revised draft of the NMMC indicates plans for residential towers on wetlands designated in the National Wetlands Inventory and Assessment Atlas, disregarding their protected status as per Supreme Court orders. This flagrant violation underscores a concerning trend and decisions of such magnitude are being made by administrative bodies in the absence of elected representatives under influence from political figures aligned with vested interests in the construction industry. This jeopardizes the very essence of Navi Mumbai's identity as a meticulously planned city, renowned for its immunity to flooding and minimal traffic congestion. Such actions threaten to compromise the city's future sustainability and liveability.”

In its order dated October 4, 2017, the Supreme Court has said, “We make it clear and reiterate that in terms of our order dated February 8, 2017, over 2 lakh wetlands that have been mapped by the Union of India should continue to remain protected on the same principles as were formulated in Rule 4 of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010.” This was after Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017 was approved in September 2017.

Based on that, the MoEF&CC issued a memorandum on March 8, 2022, wherein it has stated that the Supreme Court’s order dated October 4, 2017, has been communicated by the ministry to all the States and Union Territories in November, 2017. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has also also reiterated the same in various recent cases.

“In view of above, it is once again clarified/reiterated that the wetlands as per the National Wetland Inventory and Assessment (NWIA), 2011 should be protected as per Rule 4 of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017. This protection is irrespective of the applicability of/notification as per the said rules,” the ministry memorandum added.

In reply to this, the affidavit submitted by the Director, Maharashtra State Environment & Climate Control Department to the Bombay High Court claims that there is only one verified wetland in Thane, including Navi Mumbai. It further stated that the State Wetland Authority has requested the National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Chennai to prepare and submit the brief documents of various water bodies at the earliest to the concerned District Collectors as various court matters are going on in different courts with respect to the water bodies which includes Lotus Lake of Thane district.

The NMMC development plan, delayed multiple times due to various issues and challenges, aims to address the city's most pressing issues while also preparing it for future growth and expansion. The key objectives and goals of the plan include improving transportation, modernizing the infrastructure, creating more affordable housing options, and enhancing the quality of life for the city's residents. Repeated efforts to get in touch with NMMC officials proved futile.

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