Environmentalists have urged the Maharashtra government to stop City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) from developing real estate on Kharghar hills and along the quarried Parsik Hills in the Mumbai metropolitan region, saying that the landslides during the recent rains in Mumbai were a warning not to play with nature.
On July 28, chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had launched a CIDCO project to develop 250 acres into a real estate property including villa plots in Khargar hills.
In a letter to Thackeray, environment NGO NatConnect Foundation pointed out that the hills, extending from quarried Parsik Hills could be prone to landslides and the soil could have become loose due to continuous blasts used for mining. Moreover, Kharghar node itself has been witnessing relentless quarrying, the petition said.
“It is prudent to avoid the development of Kharghar hills into real estate projects and instead conserve it as a Nature Project,” said B N Kumar, director of NatConnect Foundation.
“The urban planners must learn lessons from the landslides at Kandivali and Malabar Hill and abort the Kharghar Heaven Hills plan,” he said, calling for a thorough Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) before urban planners venture into such projects.
Environmentalists also vehemently opposed CIDCO plan to develop an affordable housing project along the quarried Parsik Hills under the PM Awaas Yojana.
“These houses in the vicinity of the Parsik Hills could face landslides,” Nandakumar Pawar, head of Shri Ekvira Aai Pratishtan, said. “This is forest land and must be preserved and conserved as one,” he said and cautioned CIDCO against playing with bio-diversity.
“CIDCO seems to be only commercially minded, ignoring and destroying nature be it at Belapur, Uran or Kharghar,” he said.
Kumar pointed out that the land below the Parsik Hills is also being dug up now for real estate projects. In fact a big private hospital has come up cutting into Parsik Hills in Belapur, he said and wondered as to how these will be safe from possible landslides or mud-floods. “We do not seem to learn any lessons from Kerala and Mumbai floods despite the environmentalists’ warnings.” he lamented.
Activist Jyoti Nadkarni pointed out that residents of Kharghar have been trying their best to save the hills by planting trees and educating the people about the importance of the hills. “The government must take ownership of the hill conservation and develop it as a nature project for education and botanical research with limited hours of eco-tourism,” she said.
The hills will be ruined once a real estate development starts, she argued.
Another activist Chaya Taralekar said the government could develop organic farming and rainforest on the hills rather than promoting concrete jungles.