Updated: June 5, 2021 8:24:18 am
A group of youngsters under the aegis of NGO Swacch Association will gather at the city’s Samvidhan Chowk on World Environment Day on Saturday to hold a silent protest against a project that they apprehend would gobble up about 50,000 trees here upon its completion.
The project, Intermodal Station (IMS), envisages convergence of railway, bus and metro and is slated to come up in Pune’s Agni locality. To be constructed over two phases, the project will eventually take up about 400 acres in the heart of the city, necessitating massive felling of age-old trees.
The Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) has invited objections to felling of 4,930 trees in the first phase of the project. Initially, a newspaper notice had put out on May 29 had given seven days to people to file their objections. After protests by environment activists, the NMC published a corrigendum, extending the period up to 30 days.
The Rs 1,260-crore project, a brainchild of Union Transport Minister and Nagpur MP Nitin Gadkari, is being executed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
The project is being developed in Ajni that has a railway station, a sprawling railway colony, a metro station and a central prison spread over several acres. Under the project, Gadkari said, the colony will be shifted to another place and the prison moved out of the city.
In the first phase, the project will come up on 44 acres with an integrated facility for railway, bus and metro users. “The idea is to facilitate seamless transition of travellers of three different modes to interchange at the integrated facility,” said NHAI Project Director Abhijeet Jichkar.
Sharad Paliwal, secretary of the Swacch Association, said, “The project will vanquish about 50,000 small and big trees from 400 acres. We staunchly oppose this environmental destruction.”
Jayadip Das, an activist, said, “There is no demand for such a project and Nagpur doesn’t need it. But if at all it must be built, it can be shifted to Khapri, outside the city. Varanasi, the only other city in India where IMS is being constructed, is also having it about 20km away from the city.”
He added, “The second phase of the project will have malls, hotels, cinema houses, office buildings and the like. It means the project will not be viable by itself. So, must we go ahead with this project that would destroy city’s lungs?”
Anusuya Kale Chhabrani, president of the Swacch Association, said, “No environment clearance has been taken for the project and no environmental impact assessment done as of yet. They say that railway projects do not need environmental clearance, which is wrong. We have argued that it is needed.”
The activists have filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court’s Nagpur bench in December 2020. “It was pending due to pandemic reasons. It is likely to be listed soon,” said Paliwal.
Jichkar said, “The first phase of the project is coming up on 44 acres. The Railways have total 440 acres, of which, we are taking about 148 acres on which the staff colony is situated. The colony will be shifted to where the Railways’ subsidiary Container Corporation of India was earlier situated.”
“Nagpur has two railway stations – main and the Ajni, bus stations of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and airport in different parts of the city. Passengers who come from outside the city have to take long detours to reach these boarding points of transport. The IMS will make it easy for them at one place.”
Jichkar said, “Any project coming up on railway land does not require environmental clearance. It only requires environment management plan (EMP), which we have prepared, to mitigate whatever loss is caused by the project to local ecology.”
The NHAI EMP proposes to plant five saplings for every tree felled in the designated area. It also assures that an authority will be appointed to monitor strict implementation of the EMP. The activists, however, said compensatory afforestation has more often than not been an eyewash.
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