The expert appraisal committee of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) gave its nod to the proposal by National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL), seeking permission to remove mangroves in Thane, Navi Mumbai and Palghar districts to make way for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, and informed the Bombay High Court on Monday.
On March 18, the counsel for Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA), Sharmila Deshmukh, informed the court that the NHSRCL proposal had been approved and a request sent to the MoEF for the final nod.
The NHSRCL had moved the High Court last month, after the MCZMA told the corporation that it could not grant permission to remove 19 hectares of mangroves, owing to an HC direction not allowing to do so. The NHSRCL had then approached the HC after its proposal was rejected by the MCZMA on December 22, 2018.
According to the petition, 155.642 km out of the 508-km long corridor, passes through Maharashtra and affects 131.3 hectares of forest area, including mangroves spread over 32.43 hectares.
In its proposal, the NHSRCL had stated that about 1.5 lakh mangroves spread over 18.92 hectares will be affected by the corridor.
At the previous hearing, the state government had filed an affidavit through Vikas Jagtap, Divisional Forest Officer, Mumbai Mangrove Conversation Unit, stating that part of the proposed project is within the protected area and eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary and Sanjay Gandhi National Park.
The affidavit adds that the project alignment passing through the creek is proposed inside an underground tunnel that will be 25 to 40 metres in depth. The underground tunnel project necessitates felling mangrove trees on the surface.
The proposed project will not disturb the flora and fauna of flamingo sanctuary and adjacent areas.
The affidavit also states that the proposal is recommended to MoEF for diverting forest area under the Forest (Conservation) Act. The affidavit states that the project is “visionary and will herald a new era of safety, speed and service” for the people and help the Indian Railways become an international leader in scale, speed and skill.