MUMBAI: There can be no new construction within 100 feet of foothills across the state. The area will have to be maintained as an open space and reserved as a no-development zone.
Two years after the Pune bench of the National Green Tribunal ruled that no permission must be granted for building construction on hill tops (where the slope ratio is 1:5) as well as 100 feet around the foothills, the state urban development department has directed all municipal corporations and councils across Maharashtra to implement the order.
There are essentially three hill ranges in the suburbs close to Mumbai—the Kharghar range (part of the Sahyadris), the Ulwe hills and those along the Thane-Belapur belt, where quarrying also happens.
A plea had been filed before the tribunal in 2014 following indiscriminate cutting of hills in the Katraj ghats in Pune. In 2015 the tribunal ordered that for 100 feet from the foothills of the hills no building construction must be allowed.
The notification states that urban local bodies whose development plan is under preparation or is being amended must ensure that such area is marked as an NDZ (no-development zone) and reserved as an open space. In areas where development has already been carried out no new permissions can be granted and transfer of development rights must not be permitted. In the approved development plans, such areas must be used only as open spaces and for roads, states the notification.
A Navi Mumbai-based RTI activist, Anarjit Chauhan, said the latest state government notification was a “mockery” of the campaign to protect our natural heritage like hills. “No development within a distance of just 100 feet is too small, and will not serve as any deterrent for encroachers and land sharks. There should be no development for at least 100 metres in order to protect our battered hill ranges,” he said.
“As per the existing Maharashtra Regional Town Planning Act, 1966, section 14 (f), there is provision for saving and conserving natural hills, wildlife, landscapes, etc. However, we all know how illegal constructions, mining and suchlike have wrecked havoc upon our forests and hills.”
Besides the main hill ranges, there are also smaller hillocks at nodes like Nerul (close to the R R Patil municipal garden) and also towards Dronagiri, Uran and Panvel areas, where rampant development is taking place.
D Stalin, director, NGO Vanashakti, said Mumbai’s hills have almost disappeared. “The hills have been cut, flattened or have been built upon as in case of Malabar Hill. There are very few hills surviving such as the Worli Hill on account of the water reservoir built here, parts of Antop hill, Dindoshi hills also survive. Powai hills continue to be destroyed,” he said.
Stalin said hills hold moisture and water, keep areas cool and are an essential part of the natural landscape. “The order will help save what is still not destroyed,” he said.