Navi Mumbai: Greens To Approach NGT After RTI Reveals Non-Clearance Of CRZ For Balaji Temple Plot In Ulwe

Navi Mumbai: Greens To Approach NGT After RTI Reveals Non-Clearance Of CRZ For Balaji Temple Plot In Ulwe

"If MOEFCC has no information, it implies that no clearance was granted. This strengthens our case for the NGT,'' say Green activists

Amit SrivastavaUpdated: Thursday, October 19, 2023, 10:26 PM IST
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Balaji Temple Plot | FPJ

Navi Mumbai: Green activists plan to take their concerns to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) following revelations through a Right to Information (RTI) request that the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) has not granted Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance for the proposed Tirupati Venkateswara Swamy-Balaji temple in Ulwe, Navi Mumbai.

B N Kumar, Director of NatConnect Foundation, an NGO based in Navi Mumbai, sought information regarding CRZ clearance for the temple's 10-acre plot. In response, MOEFCC stated that they have no records of such clearance.

Dr S Prabhu, Central Public Information Officer (Impact Assessment) at MOEFCC, explained in the RTI reply that the project falls under the jurisdiction of the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) in Maharashtra.

B N Kumar stated, "If MOEFCC has no information, it implies that no clearance was granted. This strengthens our case for the NGT." He further emphasized that the layout of the plot encroaches upon CRZ1, as indicated in maps prepared by the Institute of Remote Sensing (IRS) at Anna University. The IRS document was submitted to the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) in the pursuit of CRZ clearance for the temple project.

Furthermore, a comparison with the 2018 Google Earth map reveals that the entire area was originally covered by mangroves or intertidal wetlands, on which a 20-hectare temporary casting yard for the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) was constructed in 2019.

"We support the Balaji temple, but it should not be established in an ecologically sensitive zone," stressed B N Kumar, Director of NatConnect Foundation. He suggested that CIDCO (City and Industrial Development Corporation) could allocate 10 acres or more elsewhere in Navi Mumbai.

Balaji temple plot

The temple plot has been repurposed from a temporary landfill for the MTHL casting yard, which was built over the mangroves on 16 hectares, according to Kumar. He advocated for the restoration of this area in the interest of the environment, highlighting its prior use as a fishing zone before the casting yard was established.

Nandakumar Pawar, the head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, pointed out that the site is surrounded by intertidal wetlands and mangroves, which were once a fishing area before the casting yard's development. He questioned CIDCO's authority to lease this land for the temple project, as the entire area was part of the temporary casting yard.

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