Immediate Release—-MoEF Rejects Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam in Maharshtra


 

MMRDA, KIDC and Mah Govt has a lot to answer for

 

In a significant decision, on the 2nd April 2012, the Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests rejected granting Forest Clearance to Kalu Dam, coming up in the Western Ghats of Murbad Taluka in Thane District. Kalu is just one of the 10+ large dams coming up around Mumbai, which are all showing blatant disregard for any environmental, social or procedural laws.

 

Kalu Dam would have submerged nearly 1000 hectares (2200 acres) of forest in the global biodiversity hotspot of Western Ghats, just 7 kilometres from the Kalsubai Sanctuary. Apart from forest land submergence, the dam was set to submerge 18 villages and affect 18000 inhabitants, mostly Tribals who have been entirely dependent on their forests and river for survival.

 

The Konkan Irrigation Development Corporation (KIDC), who was building this dam, being financed by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) has shown utter ‘lack of respect to the laws of the land’, as per the report from the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests. The work started on the dam site more than a year back and hundreds of trees were cut, without a Forest Clearance, blatantly violating the Forest Conservation Act (1980) and the Forest Rights Act (2006). When Shramik Mukti Sangathana and SANDRP approached the officials about this, they were told by KIDC engineers that ‘in order to reach a destination fast, we have to jump signals!” These broken signals include No Forest Clearance, No Environmental Impact Assessment or the Environment Management Plan for the project, No Social Impact Assessment, No Rehabilitation and Resettlement plan in Place, No Wildlife Management plan, No options assessment, No Public consultations amongst many more.

 

The dam construction had already started in full swing in the last year itself, breaking multiple laws like PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, Forest Rights Act and ForestConservation Act.

 

Shramik Mukti Sangathana had filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court against the dam in June 2011. When the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests, Central zone made a visit to the dam site in October 2011, he was taken aback at the extent of destruction taking place in the absence of any clearances and in his strong-worded report submitted to the MoEF, pointed out the proponent had no respect for the laws of the land and took permission from MoEF for granted. Significantly, KIDC gave work order to contractor in May 2011, but submitted the proposal to MoEF only in August 2011. KIDC also grossly underestimated the number of trees to be felled and villages which will be affected. It did not even consider those villages which were to be cut off by the dam.

 

According to MMRDA, of the approximately 850 crore budget of Kalu, more than 112 crores have been already given to KIDC. It is shocking that MMRDA and our Irrigation Department allocated, released and spent such a huge amount of public money on a dam illegally, destroyed land, forests, river and the villages without taking any requisite permission or without any respect to multiple gramsabha resolutions against the project, violating the PESA.

 

The Forest Advisory Committee, while “recommending to close this case” has said that “it has taken note of the complaints received about this dam and also that State Government has not submitted any of the reports requested by the MoEF”.

 

Shramik Mukti Sangathana and SANDRP have been following this matter for over a year and we had sent representations to the MoEF and Forest Advisory Committee since May  2011, providing them with photographic and documentary evidences of the illegal work going on at Kalu. While we welcome FAC’s decision to reject Forest clearance to Kalu, we urge the MoEF to take punitive action against those responsible for violating the FRA, PESA and Forest Act, from the proponent as well as the contractor. There are multiple dams coming up in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats around Mumbai and a punitive measure will set an example for the other dams coming up too. Most of these dams have no EIA, EMP, Env Clearance, public consultations, options assessment, Social Impact Assessment, or independent monitoring and scrutiny. They all displace tribals without their consent or without just R&R plans. And most of them are not even necessary as better options exist. We also urge MoEF to change the EIA notification to ensure that the dams are not allowed without EIA, public hearings and environment clearance. The Union Environment Minister in any should not even consider giving forest clearance to the project, over ruling the FAC decision, as she did in case of the 300 MW Alaknanda hydro project of GMR in Uttarakhand, which now the National Green Tribunal has stayed.

 

Indavi Tulpule, Shramik Mukti Sangathan, Thane, indavi.t@gmail.com,             09869656073

Parineeta Dandekar, www.sandrp.in, Pune, parineeta.dandekar@gmail.com,             09860030742

 

 

“How can you build palaces on land allotted for affordable housing” – Justice Dattu


PRESS RELEASE New Delhi, March 30

Hiranadani’s Special Leave Petition Dismissed by the Supreme Court upholding HC judgement.

 

“How can you build palaces on land allotted for affordable housing” – Justice Dattu

 

Today the Supreme Court Bench consisting of Justice H.L Dattu and Justice Chandramauli Kr. Prasad dismissed the SLPs filed by Niranjan Hiranandani of Hiranandani Gardens against the order passed by the Bombay High Court in a bunch of a Writ Petitions including one filed by Medha Patkar for National Alliance of People’s Movement & Others in 2008. While dismissing the Special Leave Petitions, the Court observed that the High Court is fully justified in holding that the development in ‘Pawai Area Development Scheme’ on 230 acres of land was meant for affordable houses i.e. for constructing tenements of 400 Sq. Ft and 800 Sq Ft. as per the Tripartite Agreement in which the State Government and MMRDA were parties alongwith the original landholders. The Power of Attorney Holder for the original land holders i.e. M/s Hiranandani violated with impunity the very public purpose behind the development scheme, on 230 acres of land which was allotted at a pittance i.e price of Re 1 per hectare (40 paisa per acre).

 

Today the Supreme Court, while dismissing the Petitions, observed that instead of constructing affordable houses, palatial buildings have been constructed which are meant only for those who possess ‘Bentley’ and ‘Ferrari’, when in Mumbai there is not a square inch of land and poor people’s hutments are seen on the road. How can the property which is acquired and leased out for a specific public purpose of ‘affordable housing’ by the authorities can be given to the father, mother and relatives leading to amalgamation, which is a complete eye wash. “What is happening in this Country?”, the Court remarked with anguish.

 

Have you constructed even one tenement as per the conditions in the Tripartite Agreement? Justice Chandramauli Kr Prasad quipped. The Court also observed that the High Court has remarked about collusion of the officials of the State as well as MMRDA with the developer and therefore, at this juncture when the High Court is seized of the matter, they will not interfere with the order passed by the High Court. The Court hearing Adv. Mukul Rohatgi and Gopal Subramaniam who vehemently argued in support of Hiranandani’s, dismissed the Special Leave Petitions. Shri Shekhar Naphade, Senior Advocate appearing for MMRDA said that his conscience does not allow him to keep quiet and that he would like to state in the Court that the officials of MMRDA were in clear collusion with the developers and that the entire development is in violation of Tripartite agreement. Adv Sanjay Parikh appeared for the Petitioner, Medha Patkar and Adv Ashish Mehta assisted him.

The Backdrop:

Land originally belonging to the indigenous people in Mumbai, was purchased by Verma, Sharma and others. Since the large chunk of this land in village Powai and Tirandaz was of a scale violating the Urban Land Ceiling Act then, it was acquired by the Bombay Metropoltan regional Development Authority( BMRDA) at a throwaway rate of 40p/ acre. Based on an official GR of 1986, exempting a developer from ceiling limit under ULCR Act in a scheme, but strictly for affordable housing. The tripartite agreement stipulated building of houses for low income group and middle class people, 50% with 40 sq mt (400 sq ft) area and rest 505 with 80 sq mt(800 sq ft). it is equivalent to 15% of FSI were to be handed over to State Government and other 15% of FSI of houses to be offered to Central Government agencies. A full fledged infrastructure with water supply, drainage etc and road was to be builds as well as open spaces were to be reserved and handed over to MCGM. However Hiranandanis built luxurious flats worth crores each, shopping malls, commercial complexes, business centre’s etc but not one affordable housing tenements. The cases were filed in Mumbai HC by some local residents and by NAPM through Medha Patkar claiming total violation of the agreement and breach of all rules and preconditions. The MMRDA too investigated the matter issuing notices it Hiranandanis brought out of report in 2008 recommending fine of worth Rs 2,000 crores and resumption of lands with MMRDA. However, the State got resorted to arbitration which arbitrarily reduces the fine to a pittance of 3 crores. This was questioned in the High Court and the High Court vindicated the Petitioner’s challenge. The High Court directed that the MMRDA , Petitioner and developer should sit together and file a report with details of property constructed and buildings, infrastructure open space etc. the High Court has directed the MMRDA to submit Report on April 12, 2012

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