City may lose 60-ha mangroves for high-voltage linesUpdated: Oct 28, 2019, 00:12 IST
The Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) may lose 59.75 hectares (ha) of reserved mangroves forests, owing to Tata Power’s plan to set up extra-high-voltage (400-kilovolt) transmission lines to meet the city’s power demand. The lines will connect power stations in Navi Mumbai to receiving stations in Mumbai through 47 towers across 14.2 km. Access to these towers requires mangrove destruction or use of existing walkways to saltpans.
On October 7, the company submitted a proposal before the Maharashtra government and Union environment ministry to acquire clearance under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, for diversion of 6.79 ha of land from Thane district and 52.95 ha from Mumbai. This includes forest patches in Diva, Chinchvali, Airoli, Mulund, Nahur, Bhandup, Kanjur, Hariyali, and Vikhroli. It also requires an additional 11.89 ha non-forest area for the project.
The estimated loss of mangrove land is equivalent to 87 full-sized football fields (0.69 ha), and accounts for 28% of 225-ha forest land in Mumbai notified by the Maharashtra government in July. The proposal states that only 576 matured trees will be lost, as per assessment by Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS). However, according to the state mangrove cell, one hectare of mangrove forests has at least 2,000 trees.
The cell said it has not issued a clearance yet. “Reserved forest proposed to be lost is extremely high for a city like Mumbai. No clearance has been issued so far. It will take at least one year to study all facets of a project like this,” said DR Patil, divisional forest officer (additional charge), state mangrove cell.
“After the mangrove cell clears the proposal, the state government will look at it and forward it to the Union environment ministry. It is a long procedure,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (Mantralaya).
While Tata Power did not respond to queries, HT accessed a justification report submitted to the state forest department and Union environment ministry. The note says that of the three routes studied, the one selected will affect the least number of mangroves. It also bypasses the Thane creek flamingo sanctuary, the note states.
“The power demand of Mumbai city is growing rapidly, and is expected to reach 5000+ megawatt by 2021-22. This requires either power import or power brought from outside Mumbai or setting up [a] new generating station in Mumbai. Due to stringent environmental norms, no new thermal power generating station can be installed. Thus, Tata Power has proposed to lay several new transmission lines,” the report read. “Area considered for estimating mangrove individuals likely to be damaged as each tower is 20m by 20m (sic). Loss of 576 mature trees will be compensated by planting 6,000 saplings of [mangroves] at a suitable location.”
“We had studied certain sections of mangrove forests, marked out trees to be lost, and our assessment is correct. However, we are not aware of the exact reserved forest area to be lost, which may include terrestrial forests too,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS.
“The original alignment passed through the Thane creek flamingo sanctuary and would have caused a huge problem for flamingos across open mudflats. To avoid this, we suggested a change in alignment (outer perimeter of sanctuary) which will lead to loss of mangroves but avoid any harm to migratory birds,” said Apte.