Goregaon-Mulund Link Road: Building tunnel will save thousands of trees, says environmentalist

Though BMC has shown little interest, environmentalists insist that building a tunnel for the GMLR will save trees and will also shorten the route from 16 km to just 6 km

In an attempt to save close to 1,000 trees that could soon be cut down to make way for the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road passing through Aarey Colony, an environmentalist has pitched a more eco-friendly alternative to the BMC an underground tunnel. The suggestion has not found traction with the BMC, however, which had already said earlier that an underground tunnel would simply be too costly to build.

Win-win
But Rishi Aggarwal, the environmentalist who recently met Additional Municipal commissioner S V R Srinivas to present the tunnel proposal, said that the underground route would not only serve in saving the trees and wildlife in Aarey Colony, but would also shorten the distance that motorists would have to travel between Goregaon and Mulund.

The BMC’s planned GMLR is a 16-km road, starting from Aarey toll naka, near the Western Express Highway. The existing Aarey Colony road will be widened to accommodate four lanes that will wind through the colony till Powai toll naka, at which point the link road will become elevated. The elevated road will then run parallel to Vihar lake, finally ending around LBS Marg in Mulund.

The activists have proposed a far shorter and straighter route, starting from General A K Vaidya Marg in Dindoshi, passing below Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and ending at LBS Marg, Mulund. This route will be a mere 6 km long, less than half the length of the GMLR route.

“I explained to Mr Srinivas that the tunnel would save not only the trees, but also time and fuel, as the tunnel will be shorter in length compared to the proposed plan of GMLR. But, he was not very interested in our suggestion. However, I will be writing to him shortly and will continue to push for the tunnel alternative,” Aggarwal told this paper.

Tunnel is feasible
The environmentalist is adamant that building a tunnel is absolutely feasible. “If tunnels can be constructed on Konkan Railway, which has a difficult terrain, then constructing a tunnel below the national park is not a difficult thing. The proposed alignment of GMLR is far longer than the tunnel option.

There is no need to cause so much disruption in Aarey Colony by cutting 1,000 trees and disturbing the habitats of leopards and other animals, besides disrupting a place of solitude in Mumbai for thousands of Mumbai citizens,” he said, adding that he would soon ask the BMC to appoint an expert to conduct a technical survey for the tunnel.

BMC speak
When contacted, Additional Municipal Commissioner S V R Srinivas told mid-day, “BMC had also considered the tunnel option, but a group of people had opposed it, saying no such structure should pass through the SGNP. Taking all things into consideration, we will implement the best possible option.”

A five-year battle
It should be noted that since the day the BMC decided to implement the GMLR project by widening the Aarey Colony road, members of ‘Save Aarey Milk Colony’ community have opposed the project for the negative impact it would have on the biodiversity in the area.

In fact, the tunnel alternative had already been suggested to the authorities five years ago, back when the project was under the MMRDA. Prakash Paddikal, a member of the NGO HIRVA, said, “Five years ago, we had met the then metropolitan commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad, and had suggested that a tunnel be built instead.

There are various micro-tunnelling technology available these days, which can be used for this project.”

BMC’s plan for GMLR
Length: 16 km
Mode of construction: Overground
The existing Aarey Colony road will be widened to accommodate the GMLR, weaving a winding path up to the former toll naka on the Powai end of Aarey road, followed by an elevated structure till Bhandup
Start point: Aarey toll naka, Western Express Highway
End point: LBS Marg, Mulund
Pros: Lower cost
Cons:
>> Nearly 1,000 trees will be felled, and longer route
>> More man-wildlife conflicts
>> Greater risk of wildlife accidents

Activists’ proposal
Length: 6 km
Mode of construction: Underground
A tunnel will be built to cut straight through the mountain from Goregaon to Mulund
Start point: General A K Vaidya Marg, Dindoshi
End point: LBS Marg, Mulund
Pros:
>> Trees and wildlife will be saved
>> Route will shorter by 10 km
Cons: Higher cost

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