Environment ministry notice to demolish Adarsh highrise

Friday, November 12, 2010

NEW DELHI - The environment ministry Friday issued a show cause notice to Mumbai’s scam-hit Adarsh housing society for “unambiguously” violating coastal regulation zone (CRZ) laws and asked why it should not be demolished.

In the notice, the ministry asked the society to show cause why the 31-floor structure should not be demolished forthwith under section five of the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.

The society has been given two weeks time to reply, and it will be given one week to be heard by the environment ministry.

The decision was taken after a meeting of environment ministry officials and Maharashtra government representatives Thursday.

“We issued a show cause notice to Adarsh for blatant violation of CRZ 1991. We have given three weeks time to them to reply and after that we will see what action can be taken,” said Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

Asked which part of the building is illegal, Ramesh said the entire building is illegal as no CRZ clearance was taken by the Adarsh society before construction.

This means that all the 31-storeys would be demolished if the ministry orders it.

Section five of the Environment (Protection) Act gives the power to the ministry to order demolition of a building not meeting environmental laws.

Ramesh denied the building would be regularised, saying it would send a wrong message that one can violate a law and then come for regularisation. “All options, except regularisation, are on the table,” he said.

When asked about the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry ordered by the defence ministry in the matter, Ramesh said: “We don’t need a CBI inquiry to tell us if CRZ has been violated. Unambiguously, categorically and unequivocally, it has been violated.”

“Ownership of land - whether it is private land or of the army is irrelevant for the environment ministry. We are only looking into CRZ violation.”

Ramesh said the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) in November 2009 had issued notice to Adarsh society but it replied saying they got clearance from the state urban development department.

“The clearance has to be sought under CRZ-II category from Maharashtra government and not environment ministry,” he said.

When asked who was accountable for the scam, Ramesh said: “MCZMA is not to be blamed for the CRZ violation.”

He said strict action will be taken against such violators across the country.

The scam relates to the controversial residential block being built in Mumbai’s upscale Colaba and in the neighbourhood of naval establishments. It was originally meant to be a six-storeyed apartment block for housing Kargil war heroes and widows.

However, it was surreptitiously converted into a plush 31-storeyed building. The society has over 100 members, including former service chiefs, senior serving army officials, bureaucrats, politicians and their kin.

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