Bullet train project: PMO responds to green activists’ plea on mangroves

New Delhi: Hours after the National High Speed Rail Corp Ltd (NHSRCL), implementing the 508-km Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project, said on Saturday that it has reworked the Thane station’s design in Maharashtra to reduce the number of mangroves affected, the Prime Minister’s Office has sent a request by green activists in the matter to the Environment Department.

The PMO was requested by green activists and the fishing community to stop destruction of a whopping 54,000 mangroves in Mumbai for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed train project.

The activists had approached the PMO on June 25. The PMO in its response on Friday told the group that the matter has been forwarded to the Environment Department’s scientist Mahender Phulwaria who will respond with an action-taken report.

The activists has also approached Maharashtra Chief MInister Devendra Fadnavis to save the vital sea plants. In their request to the PMO and the Chief Minister they pointed out that “imagine, we will be losing mangroves equivalent to the size of five-and-a-half Azad Maidans (of Mumbai)”, and asked the government to look for alternative options rather than killing the mangroves.

The group had approached the PMO and the Chief Minister after Maharashtra Transport Minister Diwakar Raote had on Monday said that as many as 54,000 mangroves spread over 13.36 hectares will be affected because of the high-speed rail corridor.

Raote was replying to a question raised by Shiv Sena legislator Maneesha Kayande in the state Legislative Council.

Earlier in the day, NHSRCL Managing Director Achal Khare in a statement said that under the new design, an estimated 32,044 mangroves may be affected instead of 53,000, but “All the required wildlife, forest and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearance has been taken.”

He said the forest clearance came with a few conditions though. The Ministry of Environment had put a condition that the Thane station design be reviewed so that the affected region can be limited.

“We wanted to reduce the affected portion of the mangrove region without changing the location of the Thane station — this is what we discussed with the Japanese engineers and modified it accordingly,” Khare added.

The NHSRCL MD said that areas like the parking lots and passenger handling area have now been moved out of the mangrove region.

“The location of the station is the same but after the redesigning now only three hectares will get affected as compared to the earlier 12 hectares of mangrove region.

“So this way, we have reduced the destruction of 21,000 mangroves and now only 32,044 mangroves will get affected by the entire project,” he said.

Khare also said the NHSRCL will give compensation at a ratio of 1:5 for mangroves affected, by depositing money into the mangroves cells, which will do “the compensatory afforestation”.

“So against the cutting down of 32,044 mangroves, around 1,60,220 new mangroves would be planted and the entire financial expense will be borne by NHSRCL,” Khare said.

New mangroves will be planted through mangrove cells, he added.