“Why was this area not covered under deemed forest land?,” asked a member of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC'S), perched on a hillock inside the Godrej colony in Vikhroli overlooking the Powai Hiranandani area.
The state now has to answer the committee as to why this land was not included as forest land in 1997 when an affidavit was filed before the apex court identifying forest lands.
In December 1996, the apex court had issued a directive to identify the areas that “look like a forest” and include them under the Forest Conservation Act, which prohibits any non-forest activity on forest land “without express prior written permission of the state.”
“The CEC'S has asked us why the areas were not identified as forest. We still have to check out records though,” said Rajendra Mangrulkar, joint secretary.
Three members of the CEC'S, including chairman PV Jaikrishna, and members, Mahendra Vyas and SK Chaddha on Tuesday surveyed several areas in Mulund, Nahur and Vikhroli, which fall under forest land area. These areas are affected by the litigation pending in the apex court.
The three members were escorted to Godrej colony by forest officials, collector and litigants. When the members reached the hillock, a disputed land as per records, they noticed large-scale development on the other side of it, including some celebrated towers of Hiranandani.
Pointing to the buildings and slums that have been developed in the Vikhroli and Powai areas, one of the members said, “Something has been suppressed. How did the expert committee not include this land as deemed forest land in the 1997 report? Please check all the no-objection certificates (NoCs) given to developers in this area and tell us. This land has been gobbled up.”
Vishwas Patil, suburban collector checked the blueprint of the area and said that it could have been encroached. Patil was referring to an area in Varsha Nagar, Vikhroli.
The CEC's members directed joint secretary Rajendra Mangrulkar to check Google Earth records and see which areas “have been eaten up.” Later, the committee members also had a meeting in New Zealand hostel, Aarey Colony where residents from the northern suburbs like Borivili, Kandivili and Goregaon approached the CEC'S with their documents.
Jaikrishna promised the residents and developers that the CEC'S would examine each document and file a report with the apex court. The committee has already made seven categories of affected projects and said they are checking if there are any new ones.
The CEC'S also urged people to send documents to them on the following address — CEC'S, 2nd floor, Chanakya Bhavan, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.
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