NGT admits Rs 222 crore EDC plea against South Mumbai building
Publish on : 2022-05-26 11:20:49
In 2018, activist Sureshkumar Dhoka filed the EDC of Rs 222 crore after his earlier petitions to stop illegal extraction of groundwater from these two wells and close them permanently won him favourable orders and action from the authorities.
MUMBAI: Four years after an activist filed an application seeking environmental damage compensation (EDC) of Rs 222 crore against Pandya Mansion in Kalbadevi’s Bomanji Master Lane in south Mumbai for commercially exploiting groundwater for over a decade through illegally dug wells on their premises, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Pune has admitted the plea for hearing.
In 2018, activist Sureshkumar Dhoka filed the EDC of Rs 222 crore after his earlier petitions to stop illegal extraction of groundwater from these two wells and close them permanently won him favourable orders and action from the authorities. According to Dhoka, all central and state authorities have been made respondents in the case.
In October 2019, Azad Maidan police registered an FIR against six people—owners of Pandya Mansion and three water tanker operators—for alleged theft of groundwater worth nearly Rs 73.2 crore between 2006 and 2017. While earlier cases involved theft of municipal water, this is believed to be the first case for stealing groundwater.
Police said the owners had illegally dug two open wells and installed water pumps using an unauthorised power connection. According to the FIR, the accused allegedly sold nearly 6.1 lakh tankers (of 10,000 litres capacity each) at an average cost of Rs 1,200 per tanker.
Police have also calculated the 10-year period between 1997 and 2007 for one of the illegally dug wells to arrive at the Rs 73.2 crore amount.
According to Dhoka, his calculation of Rs 222 crore EDC is much higher than the police FIR as it is based on the actual rate of Rs 3,000 per tanker charged to housing societies and includes the period between 1997 and 2007 (with same rate of Rs 3,000/tanker) during which one of the wells was used for illegal sale of groundwater. Besides, various penalties for illegal groundwater extraction are also part of the claim, he added.
Extracting groundwater without obtaining permission/NOC from groundwater authorities, including BMC, is considered an illegal act. Moreover, the wells were dug without BMC permission. In fact, in 2020, the BMC had cancelled the 999-year lease of the Rs 200-crore Pandya Mansion over charges of illegal commercial groundwater exploitation and digging up wells without permission.
LT Marg police had earlier filed a chargesheet against the Pandya brothers for forging building plans to include two wells on the premises, then digging them up and exploiting the groundwater for commercial gain. The NGT had subsequently ordered permanent closure of the wells.