In a setback to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), an expert panel of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has refused to grant exemption for public hearings and allow three months’ data instead of 12 for a biodiversity study for the Goregaon-Mulund Link Road project. Sources said the public hearings and year-long study would delay the project further.
The refusal comes after civic officials gave a representation to the expert panel, requesting modifications in the terms of reference (TOR) granted by the panel for the project in October. The panel had asked the BMC to prepare the environment impact assessment (EIA) with public consultations. Besides, it also asked the civic body to conduct the biodiversity and ecology impact study comprising three seasons and not less than 12 months.
“No exemption can be given for public hearings as the proposal involves land acquisition and rehabilitation and resettlement (R&R) issues. If there are some issues raised by local people during the public hearing, they should be listed clearly and a time-bound action plan on community development should be prepared and implemented, addressing all the issues raised during the public hearing,” concluded the panel in its meeting last week.
Referring to the civic body’s request for lesser duration for the biodiversity study, the panel said the state government had proposed one more project on ‘development of multi-modal corridor from Navghar to Chirner’, which traverses through the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, and TOR had been issued for it in January 2015. “In view of this, the study is necessarily required to assess the impact on biodiversity and wildlife, and habitat of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park,” the panel said.
The GMLR is among the civic body’s most ambitious projects and it had planned to start construction from next year. The project is a twin-tunnel road that starts at Goregaon Film City and ends at Mulund near Amar Nagar. The total length with approach road is 5.6 km, including the 4.7-km tunnel under the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The estimated cost is Rs 2,000 crore.