MUMBAI: The state government’s grandiose plan to build affordable homes on a part of Mumbai’s 5,379 acres of salt pan land may not take off anytime soon. In a major comedown, a Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) report has established that barely 25 acres of such land— a negligible 0.5%—is developable.
Worse, these pockets are not contiguous, but are in bits and pieces in different locations of the eastern suburbs. A three-month, ground-level survey of salt pan land was recently completed by the MMRDA and the report sent to the Devendra Fadnavis government.
The survey found large swathes of salt pans cannot be built upon as they are wetlands or covered with mangroves. Some expanses are encroached by slums and buildings while other plots are under litigation and title disputes. “There is no scope to prepare a master plan for housing on salt pan land,” said an MMRDA official, adding the state has been briefed. “The Centre will have to change the rules to allow construction,’’ he said.
Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms ban construction near wetlands and mangroves.
“Unless the Centre changes the definition of wetlands, nothing can be built on this land,” said the official.
Chief secretary Swadhin Kshatriya told TOI that the revenue department would analyse the report before it is submitted to chief minister Devendra Fadnavis. Early this year, the CM had announced his government’s intention to utilise around 600 acres of salt pans for building affordable homes. The MMRDA survey report will force the government to go back to the drawing board. The state is already facing a shortage of land for its pet ‘housing for all by 2022’ project. The CM had asked officials from the revenue and urban development departments to coordinate with the Centre and request removal of salt pan land from CRZ.
The MMRDA was also directed to prepare a master plan of all the salt pans and map areas under CRZ, mangroves, private and government land.
Environmentalists said all land that fall within the Low Tide Line and the High Tide Line are classified as CRZ I, where no reclamation or construction is permitted. Activists have criticised the government’s plan to open up salt pans for development, given the paucity of open spaces in Mumbai.
Salt pans are located at Dahisar, Goregaon, Mulund, Bhandup, Kanjur, Nahur, Ghatkopar, Turbhe, Mandale, Chembur, Wadala and Anik. They are distributed among 31 salt works and four salt factories. In all, 24 salt works are under licence and seven are under lease.
In 2006, the then Vilasrao Deshmukh government chalked out a plan to carve up salt pan land between three parties — the Centre, the state government, and the developer. The lessee of the land was to be eased out by offering him monetary compensation. The developer would have to provide both on-site and off-site infrastructure and in return, receive incentive Floor Space Index (FSI) for commercial use. The plan was subsequently put in cold storage. The present government said salt pans will be used only for affordable homes and rehabilitating slum dwellers.
Credits ET Realty