Yogesh Naik, Mumbai Mirror, June 23 2017

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CM’s pet project will eat up 475 hectares of forest land in the state.

The Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communication Highway will pass through forest land in ten districts, and most of the land that it will eat up will be in Thane. Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s pet project, which has met with protests from farmers along several parts of its proposed route, will eat up about 475 hectares of forest land in the state.

“The highway will pass through the eco-sensitive zone of the Tansa Sanctuary in Thane, but we have avoided Kalsubai,” said KV Kurundkar, who heads the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation that is building the 706-km highway. “The carriage needs a total of 9,575 hectares of land. Out of this, 475 hectares will be forest land.”

The 338 sq km Tansa Sanctuary houses two lakes — Tansa and Modaksagar — which supply 100 million gallons of water to Mumbai every day. The highway will also pass uncomfortably close to the Bhatsa Reservoir, the largest supplier of water of the city. The distance between the highway and the lake will be a mere 0.68 km. Other lakes/reservoirs along the highway’s route include Tansa (7 km), Upper Vaitarna (13.6 km) and Modak Sagar (9 km).

Kurundkar said that the compensatory afforestation of the forest cover lost will be initiated in Latur, Aurangabad and Buldhana where the MSRDC has got land parcels. The exact number of trees that will face the axe, he said, was yet to be decided. Environmentalists and conservationists are alarmed at the development. “We can’t lose forest land in protected areas. It does not matter if they have to add a few kilometres to the highway,” said Maharashtra State Wildlife Board member Kishor Rithe. Environmentalist Debi Goenka said that the government should widen the existing highway instead of building a new one. “The problem is that the state first commissions a project and tackles the consequences later.”

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