Nerul to Uran railway corridor: ‘CIDCO violated Forest Act, HC order on mangroves’

The regional empowered committee (Nagpur), constituted by the Union environment ministry, has held off on green-lighting the City Industrial Development Corporation’s (CIDCO) proposal to divert 23.7 hectares of forest land in Thane district, to make way for Phase 1 of the Nerul-Uran railway corridor
This was done in the light of previous violations of the Forest Conservation Act (1980) and the Bombay High Court’s orders on mangrove conservation in Maharashtra by CIDCO, reveal the minutes of the REC’s last meeting on September 16, a copy of which was accessed by Hindustan Times this week. (Hindustan Times)
This was done in the light of previous violations of the Forest Conservation Act (1980) and the Bombay High Court’s orders on mangrove conservation in Maharashtra by CIDCO, reveal the minutes of the REC’s last meeting on September 16, a copy of which was accessed by Hindustan Times this week. (Hindustan Times)
Updated on Oct 13, 2021 07:26 PM IST
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By Prayag Arora-Desai, Mumbai

The regional empowered committee (Nagpur), constituted by the Union environment ministry, has held off on green-lighting the City Industrial Development Corporation’s (CIDCO) proposal to divert 23.7 hectares of forest land in Thane district, to make way for Phase 1 of the Nerul-Uran railway corridor. This was done in the light of previous violations of the Forest Conservation Act (1980) and the Bombay High Court’s orders on mangrove conservation in Maharashtra by CIDCO, reveal the minutes of the REC’s last meeting on September 16, a copy of which was accessed by Hindustan Times this week.

REC in its considerations noted that CIDCO had already obtained Stage-1 forest clearance for diversion of 4 hectares of forest land for Phase 2 of the Nerul-Uran Railway Corridor, but pointed out that the proposal (number FP/MH/RAIL/25112/2017 on the state forest portal) was subsequently never forwarded to the Central government for consideration. As CIDCO went ahead with the forest diversion without any prior clearances under the Forest Conservation Act (1980), “accordingly there is violation of the FCA, 1980”, the REC noted in its meeting on September 16.

The REC also noted that “some construction activity and destruction of mangroves” had been carried out for the Nerul-Uran Railway as early as 2005-2008, in spite of the restrictions put forth by the Bombay High Court in its order on mangrove protection in 2005. While the High Court later allowed CIDCO to proceed with the work in 2008, this was permitted only after other requisite environmental permissions were acquired. “The CIDCO have not taken permission under the FCA, 1980, and resumed work, thus not only violating the provisions of the FCA, 1980 but also contempt of the Hon’ble High Court order,” the REC noted.

With these previous violations in mind, the REC decided not to recommend CIDCO’s latest proposal seeking diversion of 23.7 hectares of forest land (mostly mangroves) in Thane district. The integrated regional office (IRO) of the forest department in Nagpur has now been asked to submit a report on CIDCO’s proposal, keeping in mind the applicability of the Forest Act and the HC’s order on mangrove conservation, after which the REC will take a decision on fresh diversion of 23.7 hectares of forest land, and whether post-facto clearance may be given for the 4 hectares which have been cleared in violation.

Letters have also been sent from the IRO (Nagpur) to the state forest department (dated September 28 and September 29) seeking clarity on the shortcomings identified by the REC in both proposals. A copy of the letters has been seen by HT. “Once the state government gives us the information we need, we will examine whether the proposals are valid. It would not be appropriate to comment other than the observations which have already been recorded in our minutes,” said a member of REC, seeking anonymity.

CIDCO officials, including those in the environment and public relations offices, declined to comment citing protocol.

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Sunday, October 24, 2021