Mumbai: Of 18,073 bushes deliberate to be felled on designated forest land in Palghar district to make manner for the Mumbai-Vadodara Expressway (MVE) hyperlink between Talasari and Vasai, solely 51 are appropriate for transplantation, in keeping with a report submitted by the chief conservator of Forests (CCF), Thane, to the Regional Plenipotentiary Committee (REC) of the Union Ministry of Setting in Nagpur.

The report got here earlier this 12 months following the Nationwide Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) software for deforestation (FC), by which the authority has tried to divert 193 hectares of forest land in Palghar for the challenge. The proposal was thought of by the REC at a gathering on March 24.

The committee stated that “51 out of 18,073 bushes are negligible” and has postponed the availability of Stage II forest clearing for the challenge in the intervening time. Stage 1 approval was obtained from the NHAI on August 26, 2021.

The REC has now shaped an impartial subcommittee of three to conduct a soil survey and assessment whether or not a bigger variety of bushes may be transplanted or shielded from felling, minutes of the assembly reveal.

The MVE is an eight-lane, 379km greenfield expressway between Vadodara and Mumbai deliberate as a part of the Nationwide Highways Growth Mission (NHDP) Part VI and Part II, which can cut back journey time between the 2 cities to 4 hours from the present seven hours is by way of Nationwide Route (NH)-8. The whole variety of bushes to be felled between Vasai and Talasari is round 38,000, of which 18,073 are on declared forest land and round 1,000 are mangrove bushes.

An NHAI official who’s aware of the event stated, whereas requesting anonymity: “The whole variety of bushes that have been slotted for felling on woodland in Palghar was initially round 27,000. After discussions with the forest authority, which can perform the tree felling, we lowered this to only over 18,000. Officers have seen the areas the place bushes have to be felled and located that solely 51 bushes may be transplanted. The terrain is rocky and hilly, most of the bushes have already been harvested for timber and are unlikely to outlive even when moved elsewhere. As well as, bigger bushes over 60 cm in girth are combined with a dense cowl of smaller girth bushes, making selective transplantation tough.”

The official identified that in depth reforestation efforts are being undertaken to counteract the lack of forest cowl because of the MVE hyperlink between Talasari and Vasai. The challenge’s November 2019 EIA report mentions that it has been proposed to plant 90,899 bushes and 49,408 hedgerows as a part of a inexperienced belt growth plan, whereas 1,91,589 vegetation are to be planted as a part of a separate compensatory afforestation plan.

The NHAI initially proposed clearing underneath the FC Act for 94.5 hectares of forest diversion in 2018, however withdrew the proposal as a result of a a lot bigger space of ​​forest (193 hectares) was later earmarked for diversion. CRZ clearance for this proposal was granted by the MCZMA in July 2020, whereas approval was granted by the Dahanu Taluka Setting Safety Authority in August 2021.

Along with the 193 hectares of forest to be diverted in Palghar, the NHAI has individually requested permission to divert an extra 112 hectares of forest land for the connecting spur of the MVE between Vasai and Jawaharlal Nehru port in Raigad district. That proposal is awaiting Stage 1 deforestation, the NHAI official quoted above stated. In whole, a complete of 315 hectares of forest land and almost 80,000 bushes within the forested and non-forested areas in Palghar, Thane and Raigad districts will probably be felled for the expressway.

Conservationists and specialists have raised alarms concerning the lack of this inexperienced blanket, notably given the placement of those associated tasks within the Dahanu ESZ, the Matheran ESZ and across the Uranium Wetlands in Navi Mumbai.

Debi Goenka, Appearing Trustee of the Conservation Motion Belief, identified that the Dahanu ESZ is fragmented by the quite a few linear interventions apart from this expressway, together with the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed prepare, the Western Devoted Freight Hall, a CNG pipeline between Gujarat and Maharashtra, and one other set of pipelines to move water from Surya Dam to Vasai-Virar and Mira-Bhayander.

“Environmental and deforestation for these tasks have to be thought of contemplating their cumulative influence on the ecosystem. Such piecemeal clearances go in opposition to the intent of the MoEFCC’s 1991 discover declaring the area environmentally delicate,” Debi stated.

SV Ramarao, CCF and Thane didn’t reply to requests for remark.