The Bullet train is the fourth project for which verdant forest land in Thane and Palghar districts is being sacrificed.

The National High Speed Rail Corporation – the executing agency for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad Bullet train – has sought 55 hectares of forest land in Thane, continuing the relentless onslaught on Mumbai’s green cover. 

The land sought to lay the railway line is in Mandvi section of the Thane forest division, a known habitat of panthers, and the wild cats are already under threat from growing human encroachment into the neighbouring Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Thane Divisional Forest Officer Jitendra Ramgaokar confirmed that the High Speed Rail Corporation has sought the land and said a survey for the same will start soon. He, however, refused to say how many trees would have to be felled to lay the railway line through the forest. 

The Bullet train is the fourth project for which verdant forest land in Thane and Palghar districts is being sacrificed. Mumbai-Nagpur Super Communications Highway – Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’s pet project – has already claimed 220 hectares of forest land in this region. The highway will pass through eco-sensitive Tansa sanctuary. 

The forest department has already dereserved 10.55 hectares of land in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park for the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor and has sanctioned a plan to cut 12,000 trees for the same.

The biggest chunk of has been set aside for a dam to feed the ever growing Vasai-Virar township. A land parcel of over 440 – all of it forest land – has been carved out of the Palghar district for this project. 

Forest Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said there isn’t much his department can do to prevent this wanton destruction of forest. “Not much is in our hands. The sanctioning is done by the Union government. We will process the proposal and send it,” he said. 

Sources in the forest department said that though the train lines will be laid on a viaduct, it will still lead to cutting of thousands of trees and the construction work will disturb the wildlife. 

DStalin, who heads the NGO Vanshakti, said that once again no effort has been made to avoid use of forest land. “Invariably forest land is sacrificed for infrastructure projects. If the National High Speed Rail Corporation were willing to spend a little more money, the use of forest land could have been avoided,” he said. 

National High Speed Rail Corporation’s chairman and managing director Achal Khare and joint general manager Sanjay Sehgal did not respond to calls from Mumbai Mirror. 

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