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Tirupati Balaji temple in flood-prone area of Arabian Sea coast: Environmentalists' SOS to Andhra CM

In his email to Naidu, NatConnect director B N Kumar pointed out that the temple plot falls in a flood-prone area as seen from the official map prepared by the government-owned City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO). The project site is a highly ecologically sensitive zone and flood line cuts through the site.
Last Updated : 14 June 2024, 07:33 IST

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Navi Mumbai: As Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu assumed office, environmentalists have dashed off an SOS to him expressing concerns over the plans to construct the Tirupati Balaji temple in flood-prone, ecologically sensitive Ulwe coast in Navi Mumbai.

The temple administration of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) comes under the Andhra Pradesh state government.

The Maharashtra state government has allotted a 40,000 sq mtr plot from a temporary casting yard which itself was built on the coast which used to be a fishing zone.

In the email to Naidu, NatConnect Foundation wondered whether it would be wise to build a huge temple on the Arabian Sea coast at a time when concerns are being expressed globally over the rising sea levels which pose dangers to the coastal areas.

Even if the project site is landfilled to raise its height, the surrounding areas will be drowned, NatConnect warned.

In his email to Naidu, NatConnect director B N Kumar pointed out that the temple plot falls in a flood-prone area as seen from the official map prepared by the government-owned City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO).

The project site is a highly ecologically sensitive zone and flood line cuts through the site.

Kumar drew Naidu’s attention to the Telugu Desam Party’s spokesperson Neelayapalem Vijayakumar’s media statement in August 2021 citicising the then state government for hurrying up with the temple project.

“We hope the Naidu government will take these issues seriously,” Kumar said in a press statement.

Clarifying that neither NatConnect nor any fellow environmentalists are opposed to the temple as such, Kumar said the place of worship could be built in an environmentally safe area in Navi Mumbai itself where there is no dearth of land.

An initial inspection by the Forest Department said that the temple plot stands on erstwhile mudflats and fishing areas (as per the Maharashtra Remote Sensing Application Centre).

The casting yard plot was allotted in 2018-19 and the satellite picture prior to that period clearly show the biodiversity nature of the area, the letter to AP Chief Minister said.

NatConnect also attached these pictures in its mail to Naidu and appealed to him to spare the biodiversity and the fishing zone from getting permanently destroyed.

The Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), while granting the CRZ nod, has not considered the fact that the TTD project would come up on the erstwhile casting yard, NatConnect argued.

MCZMA simply considered the CZMP 2019 which also does not take into consideration the ground reality, Kumar said.

A key aspect of the area is that the local fishing community has been conducting their activity here prior to the construction of the casting yard, Nandakumar Pawar, President, Maharashtra small scale traditional fish workers union, said.

Supporting NatConnect’s cause, Pawar said the fishing community was hopeful that they could resume their activities once the Atal Setu work is completed.

But their hopes were dashed to ground as the Venkateswara Swamy Temple Project is slated to come up in the area and the local community continues to be barred entry to the area, he regretted.

NatConnect has already filed an application with the National Green Tribunal (NGT) challenging the plot allotment.

NGT’s western zonal bench has recently issued notice to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC). The next date for hearing is on August 30, 2024.

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Published 14 June 2024, 07:33 IST

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