Navi Mumbai: RTI Reveals Religious Structures Illegally Occupy 2.3 Lakh Sq Ft On Belapur Hills

Navi Mumbai: RTI Reveals Religious Structures Illegally Occupy 2.3 Lakh Sq Ft On Belapur Hills

In a major land grab scam and a series of environmental violations on the landslide-prone Belapur Hills in Navi Mumbai, about 2.30 lakh sq ft, equivalent to around 600 1BHK flats, has been gobbled up by 30 religious structures unauthorizedly, information obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) Act revealed.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Wednesday, July 03, 2024, 11:05 PM IST
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Navi Mumbai: RTI Reveals Religious Structures Illegally Occupy 2.3 Lakh Sq Ft On Belapur Hills | Facebook

Navi Mumbai: In a major land grab scam and a series of environmental violations on the landslide-prone Belapur Hills in Navi Mumbai, about 2.30 lakh sq ft, equivalent to around 600 1BHK flats, has been gobbled up by 30 religious structures unauthorizedly, information obtained under the Right To Information (RTI) Act revealed.

The largest of the temples is by Shri Shriyadevi Mandir which covers over 43,000 sq ft, followed by Sant Shri Sadguru Vishwanath Maharaj Samadhi Smarak Mandir and Shri Devnarayan Mandir with more than 21,000 sq ft each, the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) said in a reply to the RTI application filed by environment watchdog NatConnect Foundation.

Moreover, a number of trees have been indiscriminately cut, loosening the soil and causing risk of landslides, a separate data from Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) shows.

“It is not just about the temples, but the large gatherings that they attract causing danger to their lives,” NatConnect director B N Kumar said and cautioned against a Hathras-type tragedy at Belapur Hills which is prone to landslides.

Though the land grab began in 2014-15, CIDCO and NMMC have acted following a couple of complaints by NatConnect to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. The CM asked the Principal Secretary, Urban Development Department, Aseem Gupta to investigate and the latter referred it to CIDCO and NMMC.

The then CIDCO managing director Sanjay Bhatia promised action in 2015 following an alarm raised by the local resident groups such as Kalpataru Cooperative Housing Society (CHS). “Shockingly no action has been taken since then,” Kumar lamented and observed that the hill is right across CIDCO headquarters.

Resident groups and environmentalists have held a silent human chain protest under the banner of ‘Save Belapur Hills’ in April following which the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) took suo motu cognizance of the issue and served notices on the government and the various authorities, including CIDCO. The rights body will take up the case for further hearing on July 17.

The CIDCO counsel has submitted orally to the Commission that the action against the unauthorised structures has all along been hampered by the lack of police protection. The CIDCO has recently served notices for demolition on all the 30 places but its planned demolition drive from June 10 to 12 had to be dropped due to non-availability of police, the RTI information revealed. CIDCO also asked NMMC to snap water supply to these structures.

Stating that neither he, nor any of the residents are against the temples, Kumar said, “The religious structures could have been built legally by taking plots from the CIDCO under its social services scheme.”

While activist Aditi Lahiri said, In May 2012, the then secretary of Kalpataru CHS wrote to the concerned ward officer regarding levelling of the hills behind Kalpataru, another activist Kapil Kulkarni said, “Many authorities are aware of the illegal constructions since we have been complaining against the loud music played at these temples till late in the night, disturbing the children preparing for examinations and patients living in the societies around.”

Another activist Himanshu Katkar wondered as to how NMMC gave water connection and MSEDC the power to these unauthorised structures. “CIDCO has failed to act in time and it would be impossible for any authority to act if these encroachments were not checked even now,” activist Jyoti Nadkarni said.

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