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Borivli-Thane tunnel under SGNP hits a roadblock

MSRDC awaits approval from the Forest Department for ground survey as the proposed tunnel might disturb the forest and the biodiversity

MSRDC’s Borivli-Thane underground tunnel plan has hit a road block, as the consultant appointed to prepare a detailed project report, is still awaiting approvals from the Forest Department for the ground survey.

The SGNP is a national park and permissions will have to be taken from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the National Board of Wildlife. File pic
The SGNP is a national park and permissions will have to be taken from the Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the National Board of Wildlife. File pic

The underground project, aimed at improving connectivity between the Western and Eastern highway, is Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde’s pet project. Shinde is the MSRDC minister in the state government. At present, motorists have to travel 23 kms in order to reach Thane’s Tikujiniwadi area from Borivli via the WEH and Thane-Ghodbunder road. The tunnel project is aimed at cutting down the travel time to less than 20 minutes from the current 50 minutes.

MSRDC Chief Engineer PS Mandpe said, “We have already appointed the consultant to prepare a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the project, but are yet to even get permission for doing the survey, as the proposed tunnel passes through the protected area of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP).”

Facing hurdles
The MSRDC last year had announced the ambitious project of constructing the 11-km long twin tunnel under the SGNP at a cost of over Rs 1,500 crore.

This is not the first time that state government is facing hurdles from the forest department when it comes to improving infrastructure for the city.

Nearly a fortnight ago the SGNP director had informed BMC about the inability of the Forest Department to allow soil testing for the Goregaon-Mulund Link (GMLR) Road project. Like the Thane-Borivli tunnel, the GMLR too passes through the SGNP forest area.

Sources in the forest department claimed that besides environment clearances, the two projects will face major hurdles for getting approvals from the Archaeological Survey Of India (ASI). A team of researchers along with ASI team members is currently involved in a study to find out whether there are more caves like Kanheri in the SGNP premises.

Sources from Forest Department said, “The construction is based on the advanced technology of Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM). SGNP is a protected area and so we don’t feel that the MoEF will give permission for using TBMs because it might cause a lot of disturbance to the forest and its biodiversity. MSRDC has not yet been permission for the DPR as MoEF will have to be approached for the same.”

More permissions required
Another Forest department official said, “As SGNP is a protected area and a national park, the permissions will also have to be taken from the National Board of Wildlife.”

The authorities claim that the tunnelling option has been proposed in order to explore the possibility of another shorter and economical alignment.

Vikas Gupta director of SGNP, was unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts to contact him.

The tunnel
As per the plans, the tunnel will have three lanes on each side, and there will be two tunnels that will be constructed and the Tunnel Boring Machine technology will be used. The tunnels will be associated with a central 3 m wide baby tunnel and the vertical clearance in the tunnel will be 5.50 m and width will be 13.1m. There will be twin tunnels 50 mts apart and each tunnel will consist of unidirectional three lanes.

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