After months of dilly-dallying, the state and the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) are scouting sites in Thane and Raigad to set up a new Doppler weather radar which will eventually clear the decks for construction and redevelopment projects in South and Central Mumbai.
The decision to install a second radar was taken on Tuesday at a meeting on the issue held by rural development minister and the city's guardian minister Jayant Patil and attended by senior state and IMD officials.
The new radar will 'complement' the existing one which was installed atop the Archana building in Colaba after the July 2005 deluge that inundated the city and brought it to a standstill. Though this radar can accurately predict weather within a radius of 500 km, its installation had led to height restrictions on surrounding buildings. For the radar to function properly, there should be no obstruction within a radius of 10 km.
The IMD would grant no-objection certificates (NOCs) to construction projects based on its national policy for cities which had Doppler radars. Any construction above 70 mts required an NOC. The BMC had included the IMD's NOC in the list of permissions required, which had become a headache for developers.
At the meeting, Congress MLA from Mumbadevi, Amin Patel, pressed from removal of the restrictions. "The IMD has agreed in-principle that they will install the second Doppler radar," said Patel, adding that a 2-acre plot would be required for the same. "Mumbai already had buildings taller than 70 mts, so the Doppler radar was not effective. Now, since the IMD has decided to install the second radar, the height restrictions on buildings should be removed," he demanded.
Sources present at the meeting said that the state planned to ask district collectors for Thane and Raigad to locate a suitable site for the radar. However, this site will have to be at a distance of around 40 to 50 km from Mumbai.
Though a committee under the state chief secretary had zeroed down on 14 sites for the radar, an IMD official said these were not technically feasible. "We told the government that we will not be able to shift the existing radar. It is enormous (around 15 tons), so shifting may shut it down," said the IMD official.
The new radar, which will serve as an early warning system in case of floods and heavy rains and enable disaster management along with the land required for it, is expected to cost around Rs 35 crore.
Patel said the height restriction had affected the redevelopment of several old buildings in Colaba. "There were cases where MHADA had given the NOC for a project and the BMC had granted the intimation of disapproval (IOD). The developers had demolished the buildings, but because of the IMD's restrictions, could not take the construction further. The people (tenants) were also not being paid rent by these developers and were left in the lurch. Why should the people suffer?" he asked, adding that around 100 such projects had been pending due to lack of incentives for builders who could not construct above 23 floors.