4,00,000 trees: Aarey-sized Green cover to be lost to build Gargai dam

Updated: Feb 27, 2020, 15:13 IST | Ranjeet Jadhav | Mumbai

That's the number of trees the BMC wants to destroy to build the Gargai dam, which will provide additional drinking water to city

Activists have slammed the BMC's plan to destroy Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary's biodiversity. Pic Courtesy/Suhas Gosavi
Activists have slammed the BMC's plan to destroy Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary's biodiversity. Pic Courtesy/Suhas Gosavi

The civic body's plans for the Gargai dam in the Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary not only involve eating up 720 hectares of forest land, but also the destruction of over four lakh trees — a number equal to the tree population of the entire Aarey Milk Colony. The BMC has conveniently chosen to be silent about the colossal tree loss since the project's announcement.

A Forest Department official, who did not wish to be named, said, "The BMC-appointed consultant, Naik Environment Research Institute Limited, in its survey of the site at Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary estimated the loss of four to five lakh indigenous trees."

Kedar Gore
Kedar Gore

Sources said that the indigenous trees are an integral part of the rich ecosystem on the 720-hectare land. The Gargai dam is meant to meet the present and future drinking water requirements of the city. In addition, 280 tribal families staying in seven nearby villages will also have to be rehabilitated.

A nature lover suggested that instead of destroying them, BMC can enhance the rainwater harvesting system in the city. "The Forest Department should resettle and rehabilitate villagers on the boundaries of the forest and declare the sanctuary as a critical wildlife habitat. Under this plan, displaced families can also avail R10 lakhs from the Centre's schemes," said a nature lover.

The critically endangered Forest Owlet has been spotted in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary
The critically endangered Forest Owlet has been spotted in Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary. Pic/Yogesh Patel

Conservationist and Director of The Corbett Foundation, Kedar Gore, said, "The forest land falls under the Parali Range of Palghar district, which is perhaps one of the best forest areas of the sanctuary. It is surprising that the civic body is pursuing this project despite it being opposed in the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). This project will also affect forests in Shahapur, Khardi, Vaitarna and East Wada ranges. It should be opposed before it makes any more progress."

Activist Zoru Bhathena said, "In one single day in July 2019, the BMC pumped out 14,000 million litres of precious rainwater into the sea. That's more than the combined capacity of Tulsi and Vihar lakes. Now, it wants to destroy trees outside Mumbai to get drinking water. Can't the BMC see how wrong their plan is? It will be just another ecological disaster. Sadly, this is exactly how the BMC plans most things in our city."

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) submitted an updated proposal for the project to the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) on July 5, 2019. According to sources in the Forest Department, the project will require Environment Clearance (EC), where BMC will be required to answer the ministry's queries.

Researchers and conservationists have also spotted the critically endangered 'Forest Owlet' at the sanctuary. The bird was known to be endemic to Satpuda mountain ranges in central India. Its discovery in the Western Ghats has brought new hope for its survival.

280
No. of tribal families that will have to be rehabilitated

720
Area of land (in hectares) required for Gargai Dam

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