Nearly one lakh trees will be chopped down for a 258 km stretch of the 701 km Mumbai-Nagpur highway that will run through the districts of Amravati, Buldhana and Washim, along with a 10 km zone that includes two wildlife sanctuaries. The road will also cut through the forest land of 166 hectares.
The project which is dubbed Part II has been scrutinised by the expert appraisal committee of the central environment ministry for an environment nod on March 26. In the meeting, 11 points were raised by the panel which deferred the proposal for want of information. “The project requires cutting of more than one lakh trees. Project proponent should furnish a detailed list of trees species that need felling along with a number of each species and detailed plan for afforestation with three times the number plus provision for replacement plantation,’’ state the minutes of the meeting according to The Hindustan Times.
The committee has sought financial details for the afforestation along with the financial stress on its maintenance for five years and audition an annual basis by a third-party. The committee further noted that under this stretch more than 90% of the land is forest or productive agriculture land.
“Cumulative impact of the proposed project on the movement of wildlife around Katepura Lake, Karanja-Sohal Blackbuck, and Lonar Lake wildlife sanctuaries are required as per guidelines published by Wildlife Institute of India for linear projects,’’ state the minutes.
The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the nodal agency implementing the project, has now been asked by the EAC to submit the land acquisition, forest, and wildlife clearances status. Impact on the groundwater table because of the road alignment has also been asked for examination.
The entire highway has been divided by MSRDC into five separate packages or stretches for which different environment clearances have been sought. The stretch II which is estimated to cost Rs 13,017 crore will pass through 149 villages across three districts of Amravati, Washim and Buldhana.
Package III of the project got an environment clearance in February this year and will pass through Buldhana to Jalna and Aurangabad. This 155 km stretch requires 26.87 hectares of diversion from forest land and chopping down 399 trees in the forest and another 21, 627 trees from the non-forest area.
“While I do not recollect the exact number of trees impacted by every stretch of the project, the government is committed to complying with conditions laid down for the clearance like afforestation. The state wildlife board has already cleared our plan and recommended it. We have agreed with their suggestion to set up a committee to monitor implementation of the mitigation measures,’’ said managing director of MSRDC, Radheshyam Mopalwar to The Hindustan Times.
The Rs 46,000 crore project will cut down the travel time to 8 hours between the districts of Vidarbha and Marathwada to Mumbai. Vidarbha and Marathwada are considered to be the most backward districts in Maharashtra.
MSRDC defended the project while pointing out before the committee that construction of the highway will lead to employment and development in industrial zones, tourism sector, and smart cities.
The Logical Indian urges the authorities to find a solution or consider rerouting the highway in the interest of the environment.