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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Cycling track around Powai lake: Experts’ panel working on detailed project analysis, says BMC

In a statement, the BMC said that a six-member committee is working on a detailed project analysis to handhold the civic body for sustainable construction during and after the project.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai |
Updated: October 9, 2021 7:34:30 am
The protest against the cycle track gained momentum after it received support from BJP MP Manoj Kotak

With Opposition mounting to the proposal to build a cycling track around Powai lake, the BMC on Friday said that a committee of environmental experts has been set up “to discuss the lake’s development and carry out any mitigation measures required to not just alleviate but also enhance the lake and its surroundings”.

In a statement, the BMC said that a six-member committee is working on a detailed project analysis to handhold the civic body for sustainable construction during and after the project.

The experts on the committee are Dr Rakesh Kumar, environmental scientist at National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI); Dr Deepak Apte, environment specialist and marine biologist from BNHS; Dr Pramod Salaskar, environment specialist on Powai lake; Dr Kedar Bhide, herpetologist and IIT-Bombay professor DN Singh.

The protest against the cycle track gained further momentum after it received support from BJP MP Manoj Kotak. On Thursday, Kotak wrote to BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal requesting that construction work be stopped as it could destroy the biodiversity of the lake, which is also home to Indian Marsh crocodiles. Kotak also suggested that BMC should take steps for the preservation and conservation of the ecology of the lake.

“In its meetings, the committee has deliberated in detail the environmental issues of Powai lake, assessed various technologies and upon weighing respective pros and cons, considers the gabion wall technology as the most adaptable method of construction, one which will be least intrusive to the natural environment of the lake,” BMC said in a statement.

“The committee is also monitoring the water quality throughout the project and will make key recommendations on the current and future sustainability of biodiversity and natural habitats of the lake environment,” it added.

Residents and activists have opposed the ongoing construction of a cycle track on the ground that it will impact the habitat of the crocodiles. Stalin D from NGO Vanashakti has filed a complaint with the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change. The BMC pointed out that the project does not qualify for an environmental clearance by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority.

It said that while Dr Kedar Bhide is coming up with mitigation measures and sustainable interventions for basking and nesting areas of the crocodiles and their enhancement, Dr Salaskar is looking at sustainable biodiversity of the lake. The IIT-Bombay will help to understand and provide structural and environmental recommendations.

The statement clarified that the trees will not be felled for the project. “The numbering of trees, falling along the alignment of the proposed cycle track and walkway, was carried out solely for recording purposes. These trees are not going to be cut down, they will remain in-situ.”

It added, “Trees that were uprooted due to Cyclone Tauktae and stormy weather conditions during the monsoon will be removed with due permission. No chemicals have been used to remove seasonal rank vegetation.”

The BMC also pointed out that environmentally sensitive zones are amenable to buildable development, wherein boardwalks, trekking facilities, public sanitary conveniences for visitors and sewage pumping stations are permissible.

Meanwhile, residents organised another protest at the cycle track site on Friday. Aarey Conservation Group member Amrita Bhattacharjee questioned BMC appointing the committee.

“The statement released today says it has set up a committee but work is going on in full swing.”

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