The National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) Tuesday informed the Bombay High Court it has decided to bring down the number of mangrove trees needed to be felled for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project following a direction from the Union and state environment ministries and other authorities.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni was informed by advocates Pralhad Paranjape and Manish Kelkar, appearing for the corporation, as the number of mangroves to be cut had been reduced to fewer than half, they have filed an interim application to amend a writ petition seeking permission to remove mangroves in Thane, Mumbai, and Palghar districts to make way for the project.
The NHSRCL, however, assured the court they would continue with the compensatory plantation of five times of the total mangrove trees that were earlier proposed to be cut, and the number would not be reduced for the same.
The plea stated the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) and Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (in its March 29, 2019, direction) had requested to shift the Virar and Thane stations of the bullet train, which were supposed to be situated near the mangroves, so that the number of affected mangrove trees could be reduced.
The plea also stated that as per the directions, the NHSRCL has changed the alignment and shifted these stations, resulting in the requirement of removing only 21,997 mangrove trees, instead of 53,467 proposed earlier. The corporation also said it has availed permissions from all the authorities concerned and sought the court’s nod to remove the mangrove trees.
According to the corporation, nearly 155 km of the 508 km-long corridor passes through Maharashtra and only 21 to 23 km stretch affected the mangroves. The NGO Bombay Environmental Action Group, now known as Conservation Action Trust, had sought to intervene in the plea challenging felling of mangrove trees.
After hearing the submissions, the court Tuesday noted “there being no opposition to this application (to amend the plea), we allow the application”. The court directed the corporation to carry out the permitted amendment to the plea by February 26. The plea will be heard next on March 1.