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Environmentalists blame scraping of river regulatory zones for flash floods in Mumbai

The RRZ that restricted development activities within two km radius of the flood lines of rivers and in floodplains was scrapped to facilitate industrial development.
Last Updated : 07 July 2024, 12:36 IST

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Thane: As riverfront farmhouses in Shahapur and several other places reeled under flash floods, environmentalists have blamed the state government’s policy of scrapping the river regulatory zone (RRZ) in 2015 for the crisis.

The RRZ that restricted development activities within two km radius of the flood lines of rivers and in floodplains was scrapped to facilitate industrial development, environment watchdog NatConnect Foundation pointed out.

After the scrapping of the zone, there have been face-offs among realty promoters to develop “river front farm houses and bungalows” and this has devoured the open area near the rivers, NatConnect director B N Kumar said.

“We have warned the government against the dilution of the development restrictions on river banks after the floods in Badlapur, Shil Phata and Chiplun after the scrapping of the RRZ, yet the authorities do not seem to learn lessons,” Kumar said.

The environmentalists have been demanding restoration of the RRZ and the outcry has sadly fallen on deaf ears. Kumar said that he has written to the Chief Minister stating that the floods are a wakeup call for the government to act.

“There is no need to waste time appointing expert committees as the crisis arising out of the scrapping of RRZ is there right in front of our eyes,” NatConnect said in its email to the CM.

The RRZ also allowed rivers elbow room to flow during the heavy downpours upstream, he said and remarked: “You attack nature and nature strikes back”.

This is common sense and there is no rocket science involved, Kumar said and pointed out that the situation is going to worsen with global warming and the El Nino effect.

There was a move to rope in German experts to study the RRZ aspects but we have not heard anything about the progress which might have gotten stuck in state politics, he said.

Be it Ulhas, Bhatsa or now Barangi, the river fronts have been witnessing mindless development, Kumar pointed out and cautioned that the same development will face destruction when nature strikes back.

It is therefore important to have floodplains restored to allow rivers elbow room to flow during sudden downpours and the situation is going to get worse, Kumar said and asked the law makers to focus on environmental care.

Kumar also called for accountability on part of the officials who blindly sanction such real estate development.

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Published 07 July 2024, 12:36 IST

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