Thursday, 22 December 2016

Mumbai civic body okays 24 big building projects along city’s coast

The reason: Mahim coastline and Marine Drive (Backbay) have been officially redefined as “bay areas”.



MUMBAI: The floodgates have opened up for construction near the city's coastline with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) approving 24 projects near the shoreline around Girgaum Chowpatty, Prabhadevi, Mahim and Shivaji Park over the past one year.

The reason: Mahim coastline and Marine Drive (Backbay) have been officially redefined as "bay areas". A 2011 CRZ amendment by the Union environment ministry said construction activity can be restricted to only 100 metres from a bay instead of 500 metres.

The Mahim shoreline and the entire Backbay area, extending from 
Nariman Point and Cuffe Parade to Girgaum Chowpatty, have been classified as bay based on a report by the National Hydrographic Institute in Dehradun. The reduction, criticised by environmentalists and activists, was however, upheld by the Supreme Court.

The new definition of bay means developers can now build much more with higher floor space index (
FSI). The BMC's development plan department has so far sanctioned seven redevelopment projects in south Mumbai and 17 projects in Mahim and Dadar.

Among the bigger projects now out of CRZ is the Nowroz Building plot on Hughes Road near Girgaum Chowpatty being redeveloped by Arvindam Developers. The century-old 
residential building was purchased by Pune-based developer Avinash Bhosale for Rs 150 crore five years ago. A luxury skyscraper in partnership with global glamour brand, Versace, is coming up here.

On the same Hughes Road stretch, two redevelopment projects of 
Rohan Lifescapes (Pathare Prabhu building and Ajinkya Mansion) are out of CRZ and cleared by the municipal corporation. Builder Haresh Mehta of Rohan Lifescapes told TOI he has another five projects in south Mumbai which benefit because of the bay definition. Near Gamdevi temple, Devtaru Homes LLP redeveloping Kapol Nivas has procured preliminary permission for construction after the plot was removed from CRZ. Yogesh Bhavan (Mesacon Triumph Developers) at Hughes Road and other property on the same road redeveloped by Landmark Shelter too received clearance.

Early this year, the state coastal management authority, MCZMA, cleared the project by builder Earth Graphic on the ground that the site is beyond the 100m CRZ setback line from Back Bay. The dilapidated tenanted property is on Jagannath Sunkersett Road in Girgaum. The MCZMA had also sought the opinion of the state advocate general, who said the project site was beyond hundred meters of the high tide line.

In July 2014, TOI was the first to report on how the state coastal authority had redefined the Mahim coast as a bay. The developer of a Prabhadevi plot became the first big beneficiary as the bay definition immediately increased the development potential of its plot manifold.

The Prabhadevi plot near the sea is the 5.5 acre Hindoostan Mills, jointly developed by Hubtown and Wadhwa Group. They had announced two 55-storeyed luxury towers, making it the city's first mega building project kissing the sea.

After Mahim, it is now builders in south Mumbai who are benefiting from this relaxation in the CRZ norms.

But concerned activists said civic infrastructure will be futher burdened. "The issue here is not only the definition of the bay or the distance from the high tide line, but whether these areas have the infrastructure. Will such indiscriminate addition of built space affect the lives of the existing residents adversely? Unless we have satisfactory answers to these questions, the bonanza is likely to be counter-productive," said housing activist and expert Chandrashekhar Prabhu.

Environmentalist Debi Goenka said the 2011 amendment has resulted in a situation where the builder lobby has successfully been able to circumvent the CRZ along the entire west coast of Maharashtra. "The state government should have asked the environment ministry to rectify this mistake," he said.

Goenka added, "The project sites are in some of the most congested parts of the city that has poor infrastructure. A huge new project with very high FSI will add to traffic problems and further aggravate air and noise pollution levels, and deprive local residents of their water supply."