National Wildlife Board clears twin tunnel under national park, 235 trees to go | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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National Wildlife Board clears twin tunnel under national park, 235 trees to go

Feb 02, 2024 07:14 AM IST

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai will have a tunnel drilled under its core eco-sensitive area to connect Thane to Borivali. The proposal to build the tunnel has been cleared by the National Board For Wildlife, with 235 trees set to be cut down for its construction. The work is set to begin this year, with compensatory afforestation planned for the trees that will be cut. The tunnel is seen as a solution to protect the area from heavy traffic and human habitation pressure.

MUMBAI: The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), a rare forest within a city, will soon have a tunnel drilled under its core, eco-sensitive area to connect Thane to Borivali. The National Board For Wildlife (NBWL), in its meeting on January 30, cleared a proposal to build the twin tunnel by cutting down 235 trees.

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In October 2023, the State Board For Wildlife (SBWL) had allowed soil testing in the core region of SGNP, in which 122 trees were affected. It also allowed blasting in the core region to drill holes and test the soil strata. The proposed construction of the twin-tube tunnel with two lanes on each side will be from Tikuji Ni Wadi in Thane to Borivali in Mumbai.

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“NBWL has given clearance for the Borivali-Thane tunnel, and we will start work soon,” said MMRDA commissioner Dr Sanjay Mukherjee. “We will be using the latest technology and will do compensatory afforestation for the trees that will be cut.” M P Singh, executive engineer at MMRDA, confirmed that the work would begin this year.

As per the forest department’s rules, however, trees that are cut in one place do not necessarily have to be compensated for there. Thus, the compensatory afforestation for the trees to be chopped in SGNP will be done on a 35.53-hectare plot that has been identified at Umravati village in Phulambri tehsil, Aurangabad.

The proposed twin-tube tunnel of about 11.8 km falls within SGNP and its eco-sensitive zone. Approximately 10.06 km of the alignment passes under the notified protected area. There are other protected areas (Tungareshwar national park and the Thane creek flamingo sanctuary), water bodies and small lakes located within the 15km boundary from the alignment according to the proposal submitted for clearance to NBWL.

In its reasoning, MMRDA said that the existing road infrastructure around the national park experienced heavy traffic movement round the year, with the volume of traffic increasing day by day. It said that besides traffic, there was heavy human habitation and activities around the national park, causing pressure on the protected area. The tunnel under the park, it claimed, was a solution to protect the area.

The Authority added that there could be “negligible disturbance to wildlife movement” during the construction of the tunnel (since the minimum depth of the tunnel from the ground level is 25 meters) but there would be no disturbance after the construction was completed.

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