Friday, December 19, 2014 | Latest E-book

Tug-of-war over Byculla zoo land finally comes to an end

The final approval for the redevelopment of the 14-acre Mafatlal Mill land in Mumbai's Byculla is not only a boost to expansion of the zoo, Veermata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan, but will also open up prime real estate land for premium housing in the island city.

Revamp plan of the Byculla Zoo, owned and maintained by the BMC, had been mired in controversy with citizen groups opposing the multi-crore project, which they feel, will rob the zoo of its green cover.

A report in the Mumbai Mirror today said the Mumbai collector has asked the Municipal Commissioner to hand over seven acres to the zoo and free up the remaining for redevelopment. Mafatlal had been granted the plot on a 99-year lease which ended in August 2012.

AFP

AFP

The land, which belongs to the collector, was originally given to the company to run a cotton textile unit about 100 years ago. However, after being declared sick, Mafatlal Industries shut down its textile mill but has been allowed to now retain half the land, while the other half will be used for the zoo's expansion, the revamp work on which will begin in September 2013.

The 14.5 acre land for years had been embroiled in a dispute as the state government had reserved it for expansion of the Byculla zoo. But in 2004, the government decided to give Mafatlal half the plot (seven acres) and reserve the other half for the zoo. Mafatlal Industries was also promised transfer of development rights (TDR) for the portion that will be surrendered to the zoo. However, the decision was challenged in the High Court through a PIL from citizen groups and a number of environmentalists. They had held that the zoo was a crucial green lung for the city and that the authorities should encourage the opening up of more open spaces for the city.

However the High Court quashed the PIL and upheld the government's view in 2009.  In 2011, Ajay Piramal-owned Piramal Realty bought the seven-acre land from Mafatlal Industries for a reported Rs 605 crore despite legal disputes over the land. The land is likely to see much demand for the planned high-rise luxury housing.

The zoo finally got the much-need approval for the revamp after five years. And this seven-acre parcel is a big achievement after the long-drawn legal battle. After completing the first phase of revamp of administrative building inside zoo, working on animal shelters and boundaries for safety and convenience will be worked on. This revamp work is expected to be completed in next 3 years.