On World Mangrove Day, proposals to divert over 34,000 mangrove trees taken up by ministry body

Published on Jul 27, 2022 12:49 AM IST

A total of 24,302 mangroves are proposed to be felled for the quadrupling of railway lines between Virar and Dahanu, while 10,502 mangroves are proposed to be felled for an offshore propylene pipeline

Bharat Petroleum is hoping to connect its refinery in Mahul in Mumbai to an upcoming petrochemical complex in Rasayani in Raigad district, about 53 km away by road (HT Photo)
Bharat Petroleum is hoping to connect its refinery in Mahul in Mumbai to an upcoming petrochemical complex in Rasayani in Raigad district, about 53 km away by road (HT Photo)
ByPrayag Arora-Desai

Mumbai On the occasion of the International Day for Conservation of Mangroves, celebrated globally every year on July 26, proposals to fell over 34,000 mangrove trees in and around the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) were considered by the union environment ministry’s regional empowered committee (REC) in Nagpur, which examines proposals for forest diversion in Maharashtra and some adjoining parts of Chattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.

A total of 24,302 mangroves are proposed to be felled for the quadrupling of railway lines between Virar and Dahanu, while 10,502 mangroves are proposed to be felled for an offshore propylene pipeline cutting across Thane Creek. The proposals -- by the Maharashtra Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) and Bharat Petroleum, respectively -- were considered in the REC’s 87th meeting, among other forest diversion proposals, on Tuesday afternoon.

“The propylene pipeline project has been cleared by the REC today and their recommendation will be sent to the union environment ministry. The request to fell mangroves for the Virar-Dahanu railway line has been deferred as no representative from the MRVC was present in the meeting today. Further details will be given in the minutes of the meeting,” said an official with the state forest department, not wishing to be identified.

Bharat Petroleum is hoping to connect its refinery in Mahul in Mumbai to an upcoming petrochemical complex in Rasayani in Raigad district, about 53 km away by road, for which a total of 22.91 hectares of forest land will be diverted. The project will result in the axing of 11,904 trees (including 10,502 mangroves) in and around the eco-sensitive zone of Thane creek.

“Approximately 4.171km pipeline section shall pass through mangrove and mudflat area located on both ends,” while about 17km of the pipeline is proposed to pass through areas of Thane Creek protected by coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) rules, a copy of BPCL’s ‘Mangrove Management & Conservation Plan’, prepared as a prerequisite for obtaining forest clearance, stated. The proposed pipeline will pass through 7.8 hectares of mangroves in Mahul, and another 14.5 hectares of mangrove area in Alibag.

On the other hand, the Mumbai Railway Vikas Corporation (MRVC) has proposed to divert 26.5 hectares of forest land across 11 villages in Palghar district to quadruple the existing railway line between Virar and Dahanu stations on the Western Railway (WR). The project will lead to the felling of 25,438 trees, including 24,302 mangroves, as per the minutes of a previous REC meeting on February 23 this year. Though the project had been given an in-principle go-ahead by the REC at the time, working permissions have not yet been issued, and have been deferred for the time being.

The project is part of phase III of Mumbai Urban Transport Project (MUTP-III), and involves the laying of third and fourth railway lines parallel to, and on the west of the existing double line corridor between Virar and Dahanu, for a distance of about 63 km. “As the existing double line corridor is oversaturated, it is not possible to increase the number of suburban services in this section”, an official from the MRVC said on the condition of anonymity.

Therefore, it was decided to lay an additional two lines to enable a separate corridor for suburban services, as has been done for the Churchgate-Virar section of the WR. The lines are being laid on the western side of the existing lines, as the Centre’s dedicated freight corridor project is planned on the eastern side.

Our new government is as resilient as mangroves: Shinde

On the occasion of World Mangrove Day, chief minister Eknath Shinde and deputy chief minister Devendra Fadnavis attended an award ceremony hosted by the Maharashtra Mangrove Foundation, which operates under the aegis of the state forest department’s mangroves cell.

After felicitating various officials and independent specialists involved with the state’s mangrove conservation and livelihood schemes, Shinde addressed the gathering, drawing comparisons between his newly-minted government and mangrove ecosystems. “Mangroves can stand as a guard against storms and tsunamis and other environmental threats. The leaf of a mangrove tree never falls. They protect coastal lands and communities. Our new government is as resilient as mangroves,” Shinde said.

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