Train project will eat into forestland

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed train corridor project was accorded wildlife clearance on January 10, according to records of the meeting of the committee chaired by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan. The Thane Creek Flamingo (TCF) Wildlife Sanctuary, which the project will eat into, came into being on August 2015 and the 1,690-hectare bird haven — 896 hectares of mangrove forests and 794 hectares of a water-body — is on the western bank of the creek, between the Airoli and the Vashi bridges connecting Mumbai and Navi Mumbai. Apart from the creek, the project also involves diverting 32.75 ha of forestland and 77.30 ha of non-forestland from the Sanjay Gandhi National Park which houses leopards and transfer of 0.6902 ha of forest land and 4.7567 ha of non-forest land from the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. While according clearance, the National Board of Wildlife — the apex body tasked with according permissions to allow forest land to be diverted for industrial development — has laid pre-conditions for the bullet train project. These include paying Rs. 10 crore (2% of 500 crore — the component of the project in Mumbai) for habitat improvement of the sanctuary, barricading the work site to ensure that no debris fall outside the project area and ‘…providing site and funds for penal plantation of at least 5 times the number of mangrove plants anticipated to be lost in this project..’ Largely funded by a soft loan by Japan, the Rs. 1 trillion Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project has a track-length of 508 km, and will originate at the Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai and terminate at the Sabarmati, in Gujarat. The length across Maharashtra will be 155.64 km, 4.3 km across Dadra & Nagar Haveli, while the track length will be about 348.2 km in Gujarat.

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