Yogesh Naik, Mumbai Mirror, January 30 2018
Four issues that have the potential to cause immense damage to the ecology of the national park, which is spread over 103 sq km, will be taken up in the meeting: widening of national highways; a proposal to allow a geotechnical survey for the Thane-Borivali tunnel; relaxation of norms for builders; and the Virar-Alibag multimodal corridor. Each these issues or projects threatens the city’s ecological security.
Environmentalists claimed the meeting had been called hurriedly, and said the issues under discussion have the potential to cause tremendous destruction of nature. Forest department sources said SBWL member Bittu Sehgal had even threatened to resign over this, but was persuaded by Additional Chief Secretary, CMO, Praveen Pardeshi, to stay on and attend the SBWL meeting.
“The role of SBWL has been misunderstood to be the protection of species and habitats alone. In fact, with advancing climate change, reduction of available water, the habitats being protected must be recognised as high-value economic infrastructure upon which the social, environmental, health and economic viability of over 25 million people in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region depends,’’ Sehgal told Mirror.
In 2016, the state diverted 10 hectares of forest land with 12,000 trees for the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial corridor. Now, the MMRDA is planning a multimodal corridor between Virar and Alibag, which will run parallel to the corridor, and the SGNP is set to lose 14.8 hectares due to this. This will be a big barrier for the movement of animals such as leopards, who will be at risk of being hit by speeding vehicles.
Another proposal is for the widening of National Highway 8, from four lanes to six lanes. Nearly 1.5 km of NH-8 passes through the SGNP periphery, and 4.5 hectares are needed for this.
The proposal states that the area required for this road-widening is non-forest land which was dereseved in 1965, well before SGNP was notified. This non-forest area of 4.5 hectares is already in the possession of the National Highway Authority of India.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) wants to complete a tunnel between Borivali and Thane, a dream project of MSRDC minister Eknath Shinde of the Shiv Sena, who is a Thane district guardian minister. The MSRDC wants to drill bore holes at nine places in SGNP’s core zone.
The proposal says MSRDC wants to do detailed Project report (DPR) and Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study for construction of a twin-tube, 3-lane each highway tunnel between Tikuji-ni-wadi in Thane City and a road to the Western Express Highway in Borivali (East), Mumbai, passing through SGNP, Borivali. Of the nine proposed bore holes, one bore hole will be in SGNP’s recreation zone area and eight in the eco-sensitive zone. Their depths range from 20m to 97m, and the drilling machinery may cause sound pollution and adversely impact wildlife, the proposal says.
This proposal, too, has been recommended by the chief wildlife warden, Maharashtra, on the conditions that there shall not be tree-felling, no dumping of debris in forest area or any land under the control of the SGNP Division.