`ILLEGAL’ CONSTRUCTION ON FOREST LAND – Temple of doom poses threat to Vetal Tekdi

The quaint Mhatoba temple atop Vetal Tekdi is undergoing major expansion. The temple is part of forest land and it is not certain whether the required permission for construction on such a large scale has been taken.

“The temple is being converted into a huge, double-storey structure with a rough road going all the way from Kothrud. All this is being done on forest land, which has been leased to the ARAI. I have requested forest authorities to find out whether necessary permission and environment clearances have been obtained for such massive construction inside the forest,“ said Sushma Date, who regularly visits the hill and works for the environment.

WhenMirrorvisited the temple, we found a makeshift tin shed with sacks full of concrete and other construction material. There was also a banner with the names of people involved in the construction, stating that voluntary donations would be accepted.

Activists also fear that stalls selling flowers and other material will come up on the hill affecting the pristine wilderness of the area. “Once the temple comes up, there will be pujas and utsavs . This will affect the wildlife since the area serves as a corridor for them and is relatively undisturbed,“ said Rajiv Pandit, founder of the NGO, Jividha.

When Mirror contacted Sachin Mokate, one of the people mentioned on the banner, he said, “We have the necessary permission from the forest department as well as from ARAI. There always was a small temple in the area and we are merely expanding it since Mhatoba is the village deity of Kothrud,“ he said.

Forest department officials, however, said they have given no such permission. “The temple is on the land which was leased to ARAI. The land was diverted for the purpose of building a testing track and cannot be used for any other purpose. No such permission was sought; in fact, we had sent them a letter earlier as well when pillars were being erected. We will again write to them and ask them to stop the work,“ said Satyajeet Gujar, deputy conservator of forests.
Source : Mirror

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