THE MAHARASHTRA Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) on Monday told the Bombay High Court that it has approved the proposal of the 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. The proposal, it said, has now been sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for final approval.
The NHSRCL had moved the Bombay High Court last month after the MCZMA said it could not grant the corporation permission to remove about 19 hectares of mangroves, owing to a High Court direction to not grant such permissions. The MCZMA had rejected the proposal on December 22 last year.
MCZMA counsel Sharmila Deshmukh Monday informed the court they have approved the NHSRCL proposal and sent a request to MoEF for final approval.
Meanwhile, the state government has filed an affidavit through Vikas Jagtap, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Mumbai Mangrove Conservation Unit, stating a part of the proposed project falls under the protected area and eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) of Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary and Sanjay Gandhi National Park. The proposed alignment of the high-speed rail, passing through Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary at Vikroli, was jointly inspected by DFO and the project authority.
In the affidavit, the state government stated that as the project alignment, passing through the creek, is proposed inside a 25 to 40-metre deep underground tunnel, it obviates the need for felling trees on the surface. The proposed project, it said, will not disturb the flora and fauna of Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary and adjacent areas.
The affidavit also states the proposal is recommended to Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change for diversion of forest area under the Forest (Conservation) Act. It states “the project is a visionary project, which will herald a new era of safety, speed and service for the people and help Indian railway become an international leader in scale, speed and skill”.
The petition states that 155.642 km of the 508-km-long corridor passes through Maharashtra and affects 131.30 hectares of forest area, including mangroves spread over 32.43 hectares. In its proposal, NHSRCL had stated about 1,50,752 mangroves spread over 18.92 hectares would be affected by the corridor.