Wildlife & Biodiversity

Clearance for bullet train: What about Greater Mumbai’s wildlife?

Environment minister Harsh Varadhan-led panel gave nod for the train to go through flamingo sanctuary and national park

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Thursday 24 January 2019
Gulls at the Thane Creek Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary in Vasai. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed train corridor got wildlife clearance from a committee, chaired by Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan, as it encroaches upon a flamingo sanctuary and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai. Before this, on Janury 10, 2019, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) had also given clearance to divert around 216 hectares (ha) of land from in and around Creek Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary (CFWS) in Thane, Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) in Borivali and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWLS) in Vasai for the project.

The minutes of the NBWL meeting revealed that 3.2756 ha of forest land from CFWS and 97.5189 ha of land from the deemed eco-sensitive zone (ECZ) has been diverted for the project. Permission has also been given to divert 32.75 ha of forest land and 77.30 ha of non-forest land of the SGNP and 0.6902 ha of forest land and 4.7567 ha of non-forest land from TWLS.

The NBWL noted that the State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) had recommended the proposals for both the projects — one in CFWS and the other in SGNP and TWLS — in its meeting held on December 5, 2018.

The SBWL had recommended the projects with some conditions and measures to mitigate the harm done by the project.

One of the conditions of the SBWL was the discontinuation of a quarry operated by a private entity and the restoration of a natural storm-water drainage stream passing through the culvert system along with it being kept obstruction-free. “The area presently occupied by the quarry shall be restored to its natural state (re-wilded) as soon as the extraction operation stops,” the SBWL said.

The SBWL also laid a condition to construct wildlife underpasses for the unrestricted movement of wildlife.

“A joint wildlife corridor expert team comprising SGNP and TWLS Wildlife department, Bombay Natural History Society, Wildlife Institute of India, Satpuda Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Trust will design and implement the technical requirements related to the creation of effective wildlife corridors,” the SBWL had said.

Along with the conditions of the SBWL, the state’s chief wildlife warden (CWW) had also laid down some conditions related to minimising the environmental impact, compensatory afforestation of mangroves etc.

The NBWL recommended the project, but laid down the conditions that the construction work will only start after the wildlife underpass has been constructed and the conditions of the CWW have been met.

“The annual compliance certificate on the stipulated conditions should be submitted by the project proponent to the state CWW and an annual compliance certificate shall be submitted by the state CWW to Government of India,” NBWL noted.

NBWL also said that the decision arrived at in the 49th meeting requiring all project proponents to deposit 2 per cent of the proposed project cost passing through the protected areas and their ESZs. This sum has to be deposited with Thane Creek Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary for the habitat improvement of the Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary and adjoining forests and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivali Division for the habitat improvement of the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary and adjoining forests.

(This was first published on January 24, 2019 with the news about the NBWL clearance. This is an updated version)

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