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As reported by Shailesh Bhatia at mid-day.com on 16 January 2011 Charkop flat owners could have their buildings torn down since they are built on land cleared of mangroves. What's worse, the builders knew this could happen, but withheld this vital information Over 1,500 flat owners living in sectors 8 and 9 of Charkop in Kandivli West face possible eviction in spite of possessing all the legal documents and occupancy certificates for their homes. Despite a 2004 Bombay High Court order that prevents construction within 50 metres of mangroves, 25 different builders cleared hundreds of acres in 2006 to construct 25 buildings. Mangroves play a crucial role in preventing soil erosion, floods, and seepage of saline water in the ground water. When environmentalists brought this matter to light and took the developers to court in 2006, the builders gave an undertaking to the Bombay High Court that if the verdict went against them, they would demolish the buildings. They however kept the buyers in the dark about their undertaking, and once the flats were ready, they sold them to unsuspecting customers the same year. "While the verdict is still awaited, and could take another year or two, the buildings were completed and sold with occupancy certificates and other legal formalities. But the interests of the occupants have not been safeguarded. "We may be left homeless if a judgment ordering the demolition is passed. We only hope that the court takes a humanitarian stand, as we were not aware of the facts at the time of purchase," said a resident of Sai Chitra (one of the buildings that face possible demolition), whose name has been withheld on request. For many, their entire life savings have gone into their dream home. Another resident of the same building invested Rs 25 lakh -- his life's earnings -- to purchase a flat in 2006. He even took a bank loan, which would take 15 years to repay. "Had I known the truth, I wouldn't have gone ahead with the purchase," he said. RTI document sheds light Meanwhile, a response to an Right to Information (RTI) application filed by resident Reji Abraham in December 2010, found that the four-storeyed Sai Baba Cooperative Housing Society, one of the 25 buildings which is under construction, was cleared by the building proposal department on the basis of relief granted by the High Court in Chamber the Summons of 2006, and the final authority for granting permissions is the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. "How can buildings like Sai Baba CHS, which are surrounded by mangroves even today, and have agreements dated 2008/ 2009, be governed by an old relief (SMD has a copy) and not the actual order, which forbids destruction of mangroves? The builders lobby is conveniently flouting all rules," said Abraham. Sunday MID DAY investigation Official papers, satellite images of mangrove destruction since 2004 and RTI responses available with Sunday Mid Day could open a can of worms, even as the civic authorities and the State Government officials, including the building proposal department, pass the buck of who is to be blamed for multiple violations of the High Court order. Borivli tahsildar Vinod Rane stated that his department had not received any complaints against mangrove violation by Sai Baba Society. The final permissions of construction, he said, are given by the BMC. "If there has been any violation, I need the survey numbers, which have to be verified with the land records," he added. Suburban Collector Nirmal Deshmukh stated that though he was not aware of buildings flouting mangrove rules, he would ask concerned authorities to present the appropriate documents. "This is a serious issue and we will take action if any irregularity is found," he said. The BMC Building Proposal Executive Engineer Shinde said he was not in office, while Urban Development Principal Secretary TC Benjamin was unavailable for comment.
Vidyadhar Manohar posted a question in Ask for RTI SupportI have following queries about the environmental affairs pertaining to the Navi Mumbai airport- - Mumbai witnessing havoc created during 26/07/2005 deluge due to diversion of the Mithi River. Will diversion of Ulve and Gadhi rivers not result in such situation? What will be the impact on natural river regime? - What will be the impact on the water levels in the surrounding villages- during fair season and during monsoon? - What are the similarities and differences of flora and fauna at Navi Mumbai and Dahanu (place where compensatory mangrove plantation is proposed) - The mangroves act as holding ponds during high tides and floods. Where will this water go after the mangroves are reclaimed by huge heights of embankments. - What is the quantity of earthwork needed for reclamation and where will it be sourced from? The hills surrounding Navi Mumbai are already destroyed beyond recognition from the sate they were just 20 years back. What will be the volume of trucks coming to the area for reclamation and how will it affect the normal traffic on approach roads? - At present there is activity like sand dredging in the creek. What will be the impact of the airport on sand accumulation in the creek? - Is it not true that the project owner appoints a paid agency for preparation of EIA and environmental mitigation plan and it is likely that the intent of such exercise is to get the project cleared by any means rather than focus on short term and long term impacts? - What is the probability that such agency gives an adverse report to the owner and asks for scrapping of the project or shifting it somewhere else? - What is the area considered for the EIA studies? Does it include entire Mumbai region covering Navi Mumbai, Mumbai harbour and neighbouring area? If so hat will be impact on Mumbai's eastern coast- Mumbai harbour, Mahul, Thane creek etc. - Whether it accounts for the collective environmental impact of the state government's other plans such as trans harbour link, SEZ etc or does it consider the airport in isolation.