Revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat announced that the state government will appoint a committee of experts from IIT Bombay to study the geological impact of allowing construction on salt pan lands near the Eastern Express Highway. The minister said the government is mulling over the possibility of building affordable homes on salt pan lands. The state will take a decision only after the experts submit their report, he said.
Thorat made this announcement in the legislative assembly on Monday while replying to question raised by Andheri West MLA Amit Satam.
In 2015, the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development (MMRDA) was asked to study the feasibility of setting up an affordable housing project on a salt pan site, Thorat said. “The MMRDA submitted its report recently,” the minister said. “The report took into consideration the latest maps of the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), wet lands, Costal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) regulations and other restrictions. The report stated that around 355.33 acres of land can become available for housing in Mumbai suburban district.”
The site, located between Mulund and Kanjumarg, belongs to both the Centre and state. A joint policy will be formulated for the usage of this land in accordance with Mumbai’s Development Plan for 2034 for such lands, he said.
Environmentalists have opposed the proposal while citing that it will cause ecological disasters.
In its 2016 draft Development Plan, the MMRDA observed, “Salt pans are not only important from a livelihood, economy and salt production perspective, but are critically important from the point of view of flood protection as they are shallow, depressed areas holding sea water.” It also stated that the land pockets face “a serious threat from the construction lobby.”
D Stalin, director of NGO Vanshakti criticised the government’s plan. “Salt Pans are essentially wetlands,” Stalin said. “In 1974, India signed the Ramsar Convention and agreed to use wetlands wisely. Allowing construction is certainly not a wise use of such land. The project will be ecologically disastrous as it will cause huge floods and also destruct biodiversity in such lands.”