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Maharashtra: Habitat loss due to infra projects – 1 kilometre long animal overpass proposed between SGNP & TWS

While approving the bullet train project last year, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) had asked the state government to prepare a detailed plan providing a passage for animals.

Four major infrastructure projects are coming up in areas bordering SGNP and TWS — 10-lane Virar-Alibaug multimodal corridor, bullet train, Diva Panvel rail line and Delhi-Mumbai Dedicated Freight Corridor. (Representational Image)

A safe passage is set to be created for animals, whose habitat would be disturbed due to the bullet train and other upcoming infrastructure projects, to facilitate their movement between the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS).

While approving the bullet train project last year, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) had asked the state government to prepare a detailed plan providing a passage for animals. The proposed 1-km long and 30-m wide “wildlife or animal overpass” received a final nod from a sub-committee set up by the State Wildlife Board on January 13. It will be straight overpass with 1-km long fencing and directly connect SGNP to TWS. The proposal will now go to the State Wildlife board for final approval.

Four major infrastructure projects are coming up in areas bordering SGNP and TWS — 10-lane Virar-Alibaug multimodal corridor, bullet train, Diva Panvel rail line and Delhi-Mumbai Dedicated Freight Corridor.

“The purpose of this sub-committee was to decide on the location and design of the overpass. Because of the multiple projects coming up in the area, we were asked to look into the location… the earlier location and design were probably not appropriate and only catered to the freight corridor. We have shifted the location by 100 m and changed it from a L-shaped route to a direct pass, connecting the forest land between park and the sanctuary. It will cover all the projects,” Deepak Apte, Director of Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), said.

The bullet train project would pass through 115.5 hectare of forest land from notified eco-sensitive zones of SGNP, TWS and Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary.

The NBWL had asked that an expert team, comprising representatives from SGNP, TWS, BNHS, Wildlife Institute of India, Satpuda Foundation and Wildlife Conservation Trust, be set up to design and implement the construction of a wildlife corridor.

“The sub-committee members held several deliberations over finalising the location of the overpass. We also asked the proponents of the four projects to design their alignments in such a way that the projects run parallel to each other. While the bullet train will be 15 m above the ground, the PWD road will be constructed lower than its actual design, and the multi-model corridor will be 9 m above the ground,” Kishore Rithe, a member of the committee from Satpuda foundation, said.

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