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State Wildlife Board refuses to rectify 2 pc cost of bullet train sought by project proponent

In March 2019, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) cleared construction work in and around wildlife zones of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai |
October 12, 2021 11:28:08 pm
At the time of approval, the eco-sensitive zone of the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary was not notified. (File)

The State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) in Maharashtra on Tuesday rejected the proposal to rectify the two per cent amount of the project cost of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed railway/bullet train, sought by the project proponent.

In March 2019, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) cleared construction work in and around wildlife zones of Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary. As per the clearance, the project proponent had to deposit two per cent of Rs 4,143.46 crore (calculated as per area falling under the eco-sensitive zones), i.e. Rs 83.02 crore, to the SGNP. The money will be used for habitat development in wildlife zones.

At the time of approval, the eco-sensitive zone of the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary was not notified.

Eight months after the bullet train project received the clearance, the 5.7-hectare area of Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary was notified as an eco-sensitive zone (ESZ). Earlier, the deemed ESZ around the sanctuary was 110 hectares based on which the project cost was calculated.

Following this, the estimated project cost fell to Rs 497.27 crore from the earlier Rs 4,143.46 crore.

The project agency agreed to deposit two per cent of the project cost — Rs 9.95 crore — for the part of the project falling in the eco-sensitive zone.

However, the SBWL rejected the rectification, saying it was not “justified”. The chief wildlife warden stated, “If this proposed project is exempted, then similar other projects will also come up with the demand to reduce two per cent of project cost and the projects which were within the deemed eco-sensitive zone and which are now outside the finally notified eco-sensitive zones will have to be fully exempted from the payment of two per cent due amount. Citing the precedence of this project, other project agencies may demand concession/exemption from payment of the two per cent due amount.”

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