Bring 500-acre Goregaon plot under CRZ 1, says green activist

The Goregaon sprawl with mangroves, mudflats and a creek fell under CRZ I, where no construction is permitted, till recently. However, last year, the state government changed the NDZ status to a special development zone (SDZ) on Sahara’s plot, thereby lifting the restriction on construction.

Now, with the further dilution of CRZ, market sources said the 106-acres could be worth anywhere from Rs 25,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore, depending on the floor space index (FSI) and other construction benefits like transfer of development rights (TDR) allowed on this plot.

A Sahara Group spokesperson said it would not comment. However, a source who has studied the contours of the plot claimed that around 35 acres of the 106 acres fell under CRZ; a part of it was submerged land. “But now with the buffer zone reduced by half under the new CRZ rule of 2018, that much area will be opened up for development,” he said.

“The first bonanza for Sahara was when the state urban development department modified the city’s development plan (excluded portion) for this land and declared it as a SDZ. The diluted CRZ, once it is implemented in the state, will further increase the ground footprint on this land,” said the source.

The larger portion of around 400 acres is owned by the Jeejeebhoy Group, one of the largest private land owners in the city. Last year, the urban development department reserved 100 of these 400 acres for a new high court complex, a campus for the Maharashtra National Law University and a car shed for the Mumbai Metro line.

Environmentalist Debi Goenka, who has pursued this case over the past two decades, said the 500-acre plot was entirely covered with mangroves in 1997 as confirmed by a report of a committee chaired by the Mumbai suburban collector. “These mangroves were clandestinely destroyed between 1997 and 1999 ostensibly for building a golf course, with more than 400 bungalows each on 1-acre plots. In 2013, after a long and convoluted set of legal proceedings, the ministry of environment & forests sought action against those responsible,” said Goenka. The landowner has consistently claimed there were no mangroves on this plot. Recently, a state-appointed committee concluded that no forests had been destroyed between 2005 and 2018. Goenka said the entire plot should still be considered as CRZ I and mangroves need to be restored.

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