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5,619 mangrove trees will need to be cut for Gorai-Borivli bridge: MCZMA

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON OCT 24, 2019 12:26 AM IST

The state’s coastal authority has said that the most optimal alignment of the proposed bridge between Gorai island and Borivli will require 5,619 mangrove trees across 2.8 hectares (ha) to be cut. A local activist group has alleged more trees will be affected although one of the conditions imposed on project proponents Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is planting five times the number of mangroves lost.

A 500-metre bridge from Borivli to Gorai village has been proposed to improve connectivity and reduce travel time from one hour and 10 minutes by road to 35 minutes. The 575-crore project was sanctioned on August 23. “There is no direct road connecting Gorai village and Borivli. This bridge will be an important link not only for local residents, but larger public interest, and enhance tourism,” a member of the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) told HT.

Last week, the MCZMA published the minutes of the August meeting during which the bridge was sanctioned. MCZMA said that as per MMRDA’s environment impact assessment (EIA) report, the alignment of the bridge had ensured 4,100 mangrove trees (separate from the 5,619 that will be lost) were saved. The original alignment proposed would have led to 9,719 mangrove trees being cut while 9,866 trees would be lost if alignment II were implemented. MCZMA also cautioned MMRDA to ensure fishing activities are not hampered. “MMRDA should consult local fishing communities about their issues and strictly ensure their activities should not be hampered,” read the minutes.

According to the minutes, which have been reviewed by HT, 4.45ha of mangroves, buffer areas and intertidal mudflats – equal to six, full-sized football fields – will be affected. “There is need to minimise the impact of the bridge on mangroves. Adequate box culverts should be put up to allow tidal water ingress to mangroves. Alignment III minimises impact on mangroves and also precaution is taken not to disturb the existing ferry route,” the minutes read.

A local group campaigning against the project said more than 5,619 mangrove trees would be affected. “No less than 40,000 mangrove trees will be lost due to widening and elevating roads eating into our agricultural land and water bodies,” alleged Lourdes D’Souza, secretary, Dharavi Beth Bachao Samiti.

MCMZA has imposed a set of 12 conditions on MMRDA while granting clearance for the bridge. These include no-objection certificates from the state mangrove cell and fisheries department, and planting five times the number of mangroves lost (28,095 trees). “Whatever directions given by MCZMA will be followed. We will ensure least possible environmental damage,” said Dilip Kawathkar, joint projects director, MMRDA.

Since it was first proposed in 2005, locals from eight villages - Manori, Culvem, Gorai, Uttan, Dongri, Tarodi, Chowk, and Pali – have filed over 60,000 objections, alleging their paddy farms, water bodies, and fishing zones will be reclaimed. “Our livelihood, customs and legacy is all under threat from this project and future tourism development,” said Yeshwant Koli, a fisherman leader from Manori.

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