Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train project: Decide on razing 19-ha mangroves within a month, HC tells MCZMA
The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday directed the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) to decide within a month on the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited’s (NHSRCL) proposal to clear 19-hectare (ha) mangrove cover in Thane and Palghar for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train.
In its proposal to MCZMA, NHSRCL stated that 1,50,752 mangrove trees spread over 18.92ha would be affected by the corridor. On December 22, 2018, the coastal authority asked them to first obtain the high court’s nod to consider a proposal seeking removal of mangroves.
The rail corporation then approached the HC, stating that of the 508-km high-speed corridor, 155.642km passes through Maharashtra, affecting 131.30ha of forests, including mangroves spread over 32.43ha. The petition said of the 32.43km passing through CRZ areas in Maharashtra, 8.39km would be underground and at some places, the train will pass through an elevated viaduct. This plea, however, stated that only 53,467 mangrove trees spread over an area of 13.36ha would be affected by the corridor.
NHRSCL’s counsel, advocate Pralhad Paranjape, said MCZMA rejected the proposal on the grounds that the HC has prohibited cutting of mangroves. The lawyer said NHSRCL has proposed to plant five times the actual number of mangroves affected by the high-speed rail corridor, against the statutory requirement of thrice the number. Paranjape submitted the authority failed to take into consideration that the corridor is a public interest project.
A division bench of justice Bhushan Gavai and justice NJ Jamadar then asked why the bench should entertain a petition that has been moved before obtaining other requisite permissions.
Paranjape responded saying NHSRCL has submitted an application to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), which is pending consideration. He, however, promised they don’t intend to undertake any work before obtaining all requisite permissions.
Finding that MoEF was a necessary party to the proceedings, the court then directed NHRSCL to add them as party respondent to the petition and issued a notice to the ministry. The petition will come up for hearing after five weeks.