As many as 51 proposals from individual operators to revive quarrying in the Parsik Hills, Thane-Navi Mumbai have come up against a roadblock with the Environmental Impact Assessment Authority. State Environment (SEIAA) asking them to make a “joint detailed environmental management plan” and take responsibility for its implementation.
Nature, wildlife, scenic beauty, spirituality, religion, environment and adventure can all be found at Parsik Hill, a precious gem spread across the Thane-Navi Mumbai Belt of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR ).
The Authority has also asked the State Experts Evaluation Committee (SEAC) on the environment to make a commitment to CIDCO that the total area of the lease will not exceed 100 hectares. This was in view of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Climate Control (MOEFCC) stipulation that mining over 100 hectares required prior environmental clearance.
Read also | Environmentalists blast Parsik Hill quarry recovery in the heart of Navi Mumbai, send SOS to CM
The SEIAA, at its meeting on January 25, considered each of the identically worded applications requesting an “environmental authorization for the extraction of minor minerals (stone) in favor of CIDCO”. Interestingly, Dr. Kailash Shinde, Chief Medical Officer of CIDCO, and Land Acquisition Officer, Ajinkya Padwal also attended the meeting.
The proposals were submitted to the SEIAA after the State Expert Evaluation Committee, at its September 19, 2019 meeting, reviewed the applications and determined that the tenants should develop a common land management plan. environment for the whole area.
“This is an apparent backdoor attempt by CIDCO to resume quarrying despite vehement opposition from various stakeholders, including the Forestry Department and the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation ( NMMC),” the NatConnect Foundation said in its new missive to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray pleading to block the moves.
Read also | Quarrying and encroachments threaten Parsik Hill
SEAC also said individual tenants had no legal right to individually apply for the environmental clearance since CIDCO holds the lease granted by the Forestry Department. The committee also said CIDCO could apply to the Union’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Climate Control for environmental clearance. SEAC asked SEIAA to confirm this position. The SEIAA has now confirmed this and sent the proposals back to the SEAC.
CIDCO leased 138.07 hectares from the Forestry Department after the MOEFCC agreed to the diversion of the area for 20 years from October 5, 2006, for minor minerals (stones). But a subsequent MOEFCC notification dated August 14, 2018, stated that proposals larger than 100 hectares should be handled by the MOEFCC’s Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC).
To seemingly revive this arrangement, the 51 quarry operators applied individually because the areas leased to them by CIDCO are much smaller, NatConnect Foundation Director BN Kumar said.
The identical wording of the demands is also suspect, he said in a press release.
The District Forest Officer pointed out at the Thane District Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (DEIAA) meeting on February 2, 2018, that no less than 264.1 hectares have already been excavated on the allotment of 138.07 hectares. Neither the SEAC meeting minutes nor the SEIAA minutes reflect this important point and this is a big mistake, NatConnect pointed out.
Kumar recalled that the late Balasaheb Thackeray blocked the quarrying of Parsik Hills in the late 1990s because looting the hills impacted the environment and caused heavy air pollution.
Responding quickly to NatConnect, Thackeray specifically referred the complaint to Principal Environment Secretary Manisha Mhaiskar-Patankar for further action.
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