Study impact of bullet train on Thane creek before starting work, say Expert Appraisal Committee
EAC disagrees with reasons given by NHSRCL about the impossibility of predicting the impact of vibrations until work starts
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious Mumbai Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) project has cleared an important hurdle by getting the environment clearance from the Experts Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, but not without some caveats.
While giving the clearance on April 5, the committee stated that before starting work, they need to thoroughly study the impact the vibrations emerging from the work on the project would cause on the Thane creek flamingo sanctuary and adjoining waters, which are a site of global significance. However, EAC did not agree to the reasons given by the National High Speed Rail Corporation Ltd (NHSRCL), which is implementing the project, about the impossibility of predicting the impact of vibrations until work starts.
Already under stress
The minutes of the EAC meeting (mid-day has a copy) state, "While the committee appreciates taking the tunnel route to avoid the direct destruction of mudflats or mangroves in the Thane creek region, it disagrees to the view that impacts cannot be studied. Considering that the Thane creek flamingo sanctuary and adjoining waters host over 1 lakh flamingos and over half a million wader through it, the site is of global significance. The area is also already under stress due to the construction of MTHL and NMIA, and other ongoing projects. Knowing the impact is a necessary and abundant precaution, and to make the project truly sustainable, the full extent of the impact of vibrations on mudflats and its characteristics must be thoroughly studied by a competent agency (dealing with geological studies)."
"Also, since this is a Class A project and might have significant adverse impact on the environment and society, special attention has to be given to mitigation measures required to balance the need of the project and the environmental consequences," EAC stated. A total of 53,467 mangroves in Mumbai and Thane will have to make way for the bullet train project. EAC has asked MHSR to prepare a plantation for mangroves and a plan to manage it along with the forest department.
"The same shall be implemented by the mangrove cell, forest department and the government of Maharashtra during the course of execution of the project. This plan is for additional mangrove plantation in the ratio of 1:5, which is a mandatory requirement under CRZ regulations. Requisite funds for the same are to be deposited to the mangrove cell."
EAC also pointed out that the conservation and management plan for mangroves affected by MAHSR project was based on old information and without consultation of the mangroves cell. "[The plan] also lacks information on land availability for plantation and its protection and management...The committee also observed that the conservation and management plan for Thane creek prepared by the Zoological Survey of India is inadequate to highlight the impact of vibrations on mudflats and flamingos. It requires major revision. In this regard, the committee suggested requesting Bombay Natural History Society, which has been working in this seascape for over two decades, to develop a robust conservation and management plan for Thane creek flamingo sanctuary with a detailed action plan for immediate implementation in consultation with the concerned agency in the state.”
Achal Khare, managing director, NHSRCL said, “We will be appointing an agency soon to study the impacts of vibrations on mudflats; their characteristics will be thoroughly studied.”
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