Forest the size of '54 Football Fields' To Be Sacrificed For Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway
NHAI wants to lay waste 95 hectares of lush-green forest between Thane and Palghar as it 'stands in the way' of the proposed 379-km Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway
Another 95 hectares of pristine forest between Thane and Palghar is set to be sacrificed for the proposed 379-km long Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway, which will run parallel to the existing Mumbai-Ahmedabad Highway. The forest is the size of 54-odd football fields, for which the National Highway Authority of India has now filed an application with the Ministry of Environment and Forests for required clearances.
The new expressway will run parallel to the Mumbai-Ahmedabad National Highway. File pic
Senior NHAI officials told mid-day that acquisition of non-forested land required for the six-to-eight lane expressway project is already underway. The proposal was submitted to the ministry on October 11.
Deputy Conservator of Forests, Dahanu division, Nanasaheb Ladkat said, "We have received the proposal from the NHAI for the forestland that will have to be diverted for the construction of the Vadodara-Mumbai Expressway alignment passing through Palghar and Thane districts; the proposal is in process."
Green to grey
The stretch in question falls between Vasai and Talasari. A total of 50 villages fall along the proposed alignment, and forestland close to 22-25 villages will have to be diverted.
With areas in and around Mumbai already losing green cover at a fast rate, this project is another big blow to the environment. It will not only have a huge impact on that portion of forest, but it will also affect mangrove patches at a few places along the alignment.
The NHAI, however, has justified its ask. "The project being a green field alignment, sufficient care was taken during the design to keep it away from forest areas. But a few such areas could not be avoided due to geometric constraints..." states its letter submitted to the MoEF.
NHAI had written a letter to Ladkat in August, a copy of which is with mid-day. It states, "The online application has been submitted to MoEF&CC for the diversion of 94.0924 hectares of forestland of Dahanu division."
The second letter dated September 15 talks about the submission of the online application "to MoEF&CC for the diversion of 0.5051 hectares of forestland of Thane division".
Other 'green loss' projects
>> Metro III car depot at Aarey: To be built for the Colaba-Bandra Seepz corridor, it needs 30 hectares, which will have an impact on the green cover in the milk colony, one of the last surviving green lungs in the city.
>> Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communication Expressway: This will pass close to Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary, and as per the pre-feasibility report of the access-controlled Nagpur-Mumbai expressway package V, prepared by the MSRDC, more than 150 hectares of forest will be affected. "The proposed expressway passes through 155.98 hectares of forestland and ghats. Wherever forestland is involved, clearance will be required from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), Government of India," states the pre-feasibility report.
Up in arms
Bhushan Bhoir, a wildlife lover and Palghar resident
'We already have the Mumbai-Ahmedabad highway, why is an expressway needed? In the times of climate change, destroying 95 hectares of forest is a disaster… it'll cause irreparable damage to the rich biodiversity of the area. The tribals staying there will be the ones who will have to bear the brunt of it. I feel that the project is being undertaken to benefit a handful of capitalists and industrialists.'
Stalin D, environmentalist and director of NGO Vanashakti
'It seems the government has decided to destroy the state's forests in the name of development. The forested belt in Thane and Palghar districts is known for its rich biodiversity, which the new project will ruin spectacularly. Authorities and agencies implementing it should make sure that no forest is affected, making the expressway elevated in that stretch.'
Number of villages falling along the proposed alignment
Ha of Thane district forestland required
Ha of Palghar district forestland required
Approximate no. of villages that will lose forestland close to it for the project
Other projects that will reduce green cover in city
Hectares required for Metro III car depot at Aarey Milk Colony
Hectares of forestland the Nagpur-Mumbai Super Communication Expressway, passing close to the Tansa Wildlife Sanctuary, will have an impact on
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