Navi Mumbai: NGT Asks NatConnect Foundation To File Fresh Plea Against CRZ Nod For Balaji Temple In Ulwe

Navi Mumbai: NGT Asks NatConnect Foundation To File Fresh Plea Against CRZ Nod For Balaji Temple In Ulwe

The western zonal bench of NGT noted during the latest hearing on January 12, 2024 that the MCZMA has already issued a letter to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) on November 20 permitting the project on non-CRZ area.

Bhalchandra ChorghadeUpdated: Friday, January 19, 2024, 02:50 PM IST
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Navi Mumbai: NGT Asks NatConnect Foundation To File Fresh Plea Against CRZ Nod For Balaji Temple | representational pic

Navi Mumbai: In a fresh development in the construction of the proposed Tirupati Balaji Temple at Sector 12, Ulwe in Navi Mumbai, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has permitted NatConnect Foundation to file a fresh application against the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) nod granted for the project.

NatConnect director B N Kumar has earlier challenged the allotment of the 40,000 sq mtr plot from a temporary casting yard and pleaded with the NGT to direct the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) not to give CRZ permission.

The western zonal bench of NGT noted during the latest hearing on January 12, 2024 that the MCZMA has already issued a letter to the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) on November 20 permitting the project on non-CRZ area.

Kumar’s counsel Ronita Bhattacharya pointed out that the MCZMA letter is still not in public domain and that the Authority has permitted construction of a compound wall and lawn in the mangrove buffer zone of 50 metres, which is not allowed as per CRZ Rules. At this stage, the NGT Bench allowed the counsel to file a fresh application challenging the MCZMA letter.

The MCZMA disclosure came in its site visit report at the instance of the NGT which wanted to ascertain if the temple construction had already begun. The report said that only the bhoomipujan was performed at the site for which a platform was built and that there was no other construction.

Kumar’s counsel pointed out that the MCZMA report to NGT, disclosed for the first time, stated that the temple plot is part of the MTHL casting yard, a fact that did not figure in the Authority’s minutes of the meeting that recommended the CRZ clearance.

In its meeting held in November, 2023, the MCZMA had asked the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) to ensure that the construction of the temple is proposed in non-CRZ area strictly as per approved CZMP under CRZ Notification, 2019. It also asked the CIDCO to ensure that mangrove cutting is not allowed and the project planner obtains the mangrove cell NOC for the said activity within 50m mangroves buffer zone.

While no construction is allowed in mangroves or its 50m buffer zone without Hon’ble High Court’s permission, the debris generated during the construction activity should not be dumped in CRZ area. Also, the debris need to be processed in a scientific manner at a designated site, the authority observed.

About Tirupati Temple In Navi Mumbai

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam has proposed to construct a Tirupati Venkateswara Swami Temple on a plot measuring 40,000 sq mtr in Sector 12, Ulwe. The MCZMA had observed that the project planner needs to restrict the proposed construction in non-CRZ area as per approved CZMP, 2011. The members suggested that there shall not be any impact on CRZ area from the construction activities proposed in non-CRZ area.

Recommending the proposal for construction in the non-CRZ area to the concerned planning authority from CRZ point of view subject to certain conditions, the MCZMA had stated that the local civic body needs to ensure that all other required permission from different statutory authorities are obtained before commencing construction.

On a complaint by NatConnect and fellow environment group Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde has also asked the environment and urban development departments to look into the issue and ensure that there is no violation of any CRZ regulations while constructing the temple.

Expressing satisfaction over the NGT order and stating that he is not at all opposed to the temple, but it should not come up in an ecologically sensitive coastal zone, Director of NatConnect Foundation, B N Kumar said, “At a time when world over concerns are being expressed over the rising sea levels, we should not be doing any construction along the coast, that too close to the tidal influential area.”

“Google earth maps of 2018 clearly show the intertidal wetlands in the area,” Kumar said, pointing out that the local fishing community had said that they used to go there for their catch. Nandakumar Pawar, president of Small Scale Fishermen Union, said CIDCO has been habitually displacing the fishing community under the guise of development which is also destroying the environment and they are continuing to do so at Ulwe.

“It is highly regrettable that urban planners such as CIDCO have miserably failed to learn lessons from nature's fury because of human follies in playing with the environment,” Pawar said. Both Kumar and Pawar added that the entire casting yard area must be cleared of landfill and the original status of wetlands and mudflats be restored.

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