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Solitary mangrove doesn't require 50-mt buffer zone, says HC while allowing construction

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Mumbai, Jan 19 (PTI) A solitary mangrove tree does not require a 50-meter buffer zone around it, the Bombay High Court has said while allowing two housing societies in neighbouring Navi Mumbai to construct additional floors.

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A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Kamal Khata on Thursday said it failed to understand how the construction of a few additional floors on existing buildings would pose a grave threat to a single mangrove tree.

The two societies had applied to the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) seeking permission to build additional floors using available Floor Space Index (FSI), but the civic body asked them to obtain a No Objection Certificate from the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) as one of the plots stood within a 50-meter buffer zone.

A buffer zone is mandatory around any mangrove site.

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The societies, which moved the high court against the NMMC, pointed out that in this case there was only one tree at a distance of 48.20 meters from one of the plots.

They did not plan to remove the tree, but the requirement of a 50-meter buffer zone was irrational and contrary to common sense, the petitioners said.

Agreeing with them, the division bench said public authorities routinely undertake mega projects and seek exemption from such rules.

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"If the low-lying areas at the proposed new airport (in Navi Mumbai) are any indication, they (authorities) routinely make applications to this court for permission to destroy acres and acres of mangroves, citing an overriding public interest," the HC said.

"But here apparently a few additional floors on an existing building cannot be allowed because that construction will somehow -- no one can quite tell us how -- pose a deathly peril to this one solitary mangrove tree," the bench said.

The requirement for an MCZMA approval was unjustified, the court held.

"We are not suggesting a dispensation from the buffer zone but a solitary tree does not require a 50- or 500-meter buffer zone and can well be protected otherwise," it observed while directing the corporation to issue a development permission to the petitioners. PTI SP KRK

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