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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.
Atul Patankar posted a topic in RTI in MediaAs reported By Shailesh Bhatia at mid-day.com on 20 February, 2011 BMC to construct storm water drain that HC ordered pvt builders to make; residents furious The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation is in the eye of a storm over a one kilometre stretch of storm water drain in Charkop, Kandivli West. According to a Bombay High Court order of 2009, the drain was supposed to have been constructed by a group of private developers but is now being made by the BMC, using a cool Rs 50 lakh of the taxpayers' money. Predictably, the area's residents are furious about what the BMC is doing. Reji Abraham, chief secretary of United Association for Social, Educational and Public Welfare, a local body of citizens, said they filed an RTI enquiring into the matter since they suspected that civic authorities were giving preferential treatment to the builder lobby. "The RTI response says that the BMC is utilising government funds allocated for improvement of roads in the western suburbs. Not only is the builder lobby allotted plots in mangrove areas at throw away prices, now they are being showered with favours at the cost of the taxpayers' money," said Abraham. Sunday MiD DAY has a copy of the RTI document. B N Devadiga, secretary of the nearby Highland Complex in Charkop, located three km away from the drain, said there were bigger issues like water accumulation and dilapidated roads that the BMC had done nothing about. "Our society, which has over 5,000 residents, has been surviving without proper drainage facilities for the last 20 years. Our storm water drains are overflowing even when it does not rain," he said. Sub Engineer Shah of R Ward (South) said the work was being carried out after obtaining all requisite permissions from concerned departments, including the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai. When asked about funds being used, a senior level engineer who did not wish to be named said, "Our job is to follow orders issued from the top."
As reported by Shailendra Bhatia at www.mid-day.com on February 22, 2009 Mumbai: Officials bend the rules, allow a restaurant to run on a tea-stall's license Residents of sector 2, Kandivali (W), were in for an unpleasant surprise when they made inquiries about an alleged encroachment on public space in their neighbourhood. Turned out that the man allegedly responsible was their local BMC official, assistant engineer Manoj Kamath. When they filed an RTI, the response (Sunday MiD DAY has a copy), revealed that the encroaching eatery was running on a tea stall license issued in the name of the BMC engineer's wife: Neha Manoj Kamath. Local activist and RTI complainant, Reji Abraham, president of United Association for Social Education and Public Welfare says it took him over six months to collect paperwork implicating the accused. "Higher-up officials have been shielding Kamath. I have copies of statements issued by the BMC officials that the illegal structure has been removed, but I have photographs showing this to be false," he says. When contacted, Manoj Kamath brushed aside the allegations and stated that no illegal encroachments had been carried out by him. And, that though he did not have the requisite license for the eatery, it had been applied for. Local Assistant Commissioner BMC (R South), V Shankarwar, says action had already been initiated against the establishment. "The controversial encroachment was apparently made on the pretext of a monsoon cover, which has to be eventually removed by whoever is running the establishment". Shankarwar added that he was not aware of the discrepancy in the license and the actual nature of business being carried out, and directed the inquiry to his health department, which confirmed that the eatery was in fact conducting business on a tea stall license. Investigations carried out by Sunday MiD DAY have revealed that Manoj Kamath was the first BMC official to be fined for not revealing information under the Right to Information Act. Kamath, who worked in the buildings and factory department at H (West) ward, Bandra, before being transferred to Borivili/Dahisar area was ordered to pay Rs 25,000 and reveal the information within five days to the complainant, Aftab Siddiqui, chairperson of Advanced Locality Management (ALM) 144 in Khar (West). "I had filed two complaints with the department at the ward alleging illegal construction in MK Building on 33rd Road. With no action taken, I filed an application under the RTI Act and Kamath, on behalf of the department, replied that his department did not have the requisite information," recalls Siddiqui. Siddiqui eventually approached the commission on March 7, 2007, which heard the case and imposed a fine on Kamath; this has now become a landmark judgment in the RTI crusade. Source : Here's how the BMC gets a bad name