Samruddhi Mahamarg could endanger Mumbai’s water sources
Radheshyam Mopalwar, managing director of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation said that this was the last patch of forest land to be diverted.
Mumbai: The state forest department has diverted 4.3 hectares of forest land for the last phase of the Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Mahamarg. The affected area is in Washala, Fugale and Dhakane, villages of the Shahapur area of Thane that houses most lakes that supply drinking water to Mumbai
The order to divert the forest land was issued on Friday. Radheshyam Mopalwar, managing director of the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation said that this was the last patch of forest land to be diverted. The expressway passes very close to Bhatsa Lake which supplies over 50 per cent of water to Mumbai city.
Phase 1 of the expressway from Shirdi to Nagpur was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 11, and the second phase will be completed by 2024. The project is the brainchild of Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who hails from Nagpur and wanted to connect the orange city with Mumbai. Since it was to be named after Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, MVA chief minister Uddhav Thackeray had also accorded top priority to the project and permissions rolled in fast, though the Covid pandemic slowed down the work.
The highway’s path is through the eco-sensitive zone of the Katepurna and Karanja Sohol wildlife sanctuaries, and cuts through 166 hectares of forest land. In Shahapur tehsil, it also passes through the eco-sensitive zone of the Tansa sanctuary. More than two lakh trees have been cut for the project so far.
“Mumbai gets 96 per cent of its water supply from the Thane and Nashik districts,” said environmental activist Amrita Bhattacharjee. “The patch which is being destroyed is closer to these lakes. We don’t have enough water in the city and these mega projects are destroying forests that get us water. Instead of creating new roads, the authorities should have expanded the current road. Instead of cutting lakhs of trees, we must look for alternative solutions.”
Environmental activist D Stalin of NGO Vanashakti said that the continued depletion of existing forests was cause for concern. “This never-ending devouring of forests by so-called infrastructure projects is a crisis,” he said. “Greenwashing based on false promises is the norm and this is just another example. This trend of sacrificing forests has to stop.’’