Navi Mumbai: Proposed Tirupati Balaji Temple In Ulwe In Legal Tangle

Navi Mumbai: Proposed Tirupati Balaji Temple In Ulwe In Legal Tangle

City environmentalist moves NGT afresh against CRZ permission

Bhalchandra ChorghadeUpdated: Monday, February 05, 2024, 09:33 PM IST
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CIDCO Bhavan | File

Coinciding with the observance of the World Wetlands Day on February 2, a city-based environmentalist has moved the National Green Tribunal challenging the Coastal regulation Zone (CRZ) permission granted for the Tirupati Balaji temple in ecologically sensitive and protected CRZ plot. 

“The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), while giving a conditional CRZ nod, has ignored the fact that the plot allocated for the temple is part of the temporary casting yard meant for the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL),” NatConnect Foundation director B N Kumar contended in his application before the NGT’s western zonal bench.

Questions raised on CIDCO's move

The City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) which leased out the 10-acre plot for the temple has “illegally permitted the construction of impermissible project” such as the proposed temple project for Lord Venkateswara Swami by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the activist argued. Earlier, he had challenged the CIDCO's allotment of the plot and during the pendency of the petition, MCZMA gave the CRZ nod. He has now challenged the CRZ permission.

All efforts to get in touch with CIDCO official proved futile.

Earlier, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) permitted NatConnect Foundation to file a fresh application against the CRZ nod granted for the project. The NGO had raised objections on the allotment of the 40,000 sq mtr plot from a temporary casting yard and pleaded with the NGT to direct the 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 TTD on November 20 permitting the project on non-CRZ area. Kumar’s counsel had 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.

MCZMA's report to NGT

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 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.

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.

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