Mumbai: Armed with fresh evidence of environmental violations in the allotment of a 10-acre plot for the Tirupati Balaji temple at Ulwe coast in Navi Mumbai, green groups have decided to move the National Green Tribunal ( NGT).
The plot layout clearly shows that it cuts into the CRZ1, maps prepared by the Institute of Remote Sensing (IRS) of the Anna University show, B N Kumar, Director, NatConnect Foundation said. The IRS document was submitted to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) to obtain the CRZ nod for the temple project.
Google Earth map showed that the plot was full of mangroves or wetlands
Moreover, a comparison with the Google Earth map of 2018 shows that the entire area was either full of mangroves or intertidal wetlands on which a 20-hectare temporary casting yard for the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) was built in 2019.
As per MMRDA’s Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) submitted for getting the Environmental Clearance (EC), the casting yard is supposed to be a temporary arrangement for the MTHL. CIDCO carved out the plot for the Balaji temple from this casting yard but this major point is not reflected in the minutes of the MCZMA meeting that granted the conditional CRZ nod, alleged environmentalists.
This, despite the fact that CIDCO in its press release on April 2, 2022 has admitted that the temple plot is part of the casting yard, Kumar said.
The MCMA minutes show that of the 40,000 sq meters of the temple plot, 2,748.18 sq meters fall under CRZ1A, 25,656.58 sq meters in CRZ2 while 11,595 sq mtr is outside CRZ. Construction is therefore permitted only outside the CRZ.
Since the entire plot is part of the temporary casting yard, CIDCO has no business to lease it out for the temple project, Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said.
He pointed out that the site is surrounded by intertidal wetland and mangroves which was a fishing area before the casting yard was developed.
NatConnect decides to move NGT
In a double-pronged action, NatConnect has decided to move the NGT challenging the environmental violations and simultaneously appealed to the Centre and the Chief Minister for cancellation of the temple plot. “Our legal consultants are working on the application to be filed with the NGT’s western zonal bench shortly,” the NatConnect director said. In this context, activists have come out in defense of a forest guard who has been suspended for confirming the presence of mangroves in the vicinity of the temple plot.
The forest department employee visited the proposed temple site for an on-the-spot inspection following a directive from the Union Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOEFCC) to inquire into NatConnect’s previous complaints of violations in the temple plot allotment.
Terming the suspension as unfair and unfortunate, Kumar urged the Chief Minister to revoke the action. Irrespective of the forest guard’s report, the Anna University and Google Earth maps confirm that the plot is clearly in the CRZ1 zone, Kumar pointed out in a fresh missive to the CM. Several Environmentalists have come forward in defence of the forest guard.