Forest Department approves diversion of 19 ha reserved forest land between Pune & Nagar for NH 160 upgradation - Hindustan Times
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Forest Department approves diversion of 19 ha reserved forest land between Pune & Nagar for NH 160 upgradation

Jan 28, 2024 05:34 AM IST

The MSRDC has proposed upgradation to two lanes with paved shoulder/four-lane configuration of the Ahmednagar-Baramati-Phaltan section

The forest department has issued in-principle approval for diversion of reserved forest land admeasuring 19.981 hectare (ha) between Pune and Ahmednagar for the upgradation of National Highway (NH) 160 connecting Ahmednagar, Baramati and Phaltan. Whereas Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC), the authority responsible for carrying out the upgradation, will have to build wildlife underpasses at multiple locations. A final notification in this regard has been issued by the state government on January 23, 2024.

According to a forest official, the department first faced this issue a couple of years ago and the first work order was already issued. (HT PHOTO)
According to a forest official, the department first faced this issue a couple of years ago and the first work order was already issued. (HT PHOTO)

The MSRDC has proposed upgradation to two lanes with paved shoulder/four-lane configuration of the Ahmednagar-Baramati-Phaltan section of NH 160 between Kinetic Chowk in Ahmednagar and Vasunde Phata in Daund tehsil. The overall stretch is of 93.800 km. Out of the 19.981 ha reserved forest land, nearly 16.289 ha belongs to the Pune forest division while 3.692 ha belongs to the Ahmednagar forest division. The permission process for the same began in 2021 in which the forest department asked the MSRDC to submit the complete work plan. After completing multiple stages of approval, the forest department recently issued final, in-principle approval for the diversion of 19.981 ha reserved forest land for the aforementioned project under section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.

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As per the conditions, the forest department asked the deputy conservator of forests, Pune and Ahmednagar, to ensure construction of wildlife underpasses at every 500 metres of forest land for smooth movement of wildlife and at every 500 metres of non-forest land through which wildlife moves seasonally before the actual handover of the forest land.

Mahadev Mohite, deputy conservator of forests (DCF), said that the department had earlier instructed the range forest office to keep a check on the said work and whether or not the conditions were followed. “We will soon review the road work and inspect if the conditions have been completed or not,” he said.

According to a forest official, the department first faced this issue a couple of years ago and the first work order was already issued. Based on this, work would have already been started on this road however the latest version order is the final order in this regard, and it has also been highlighted that the forest department must inspect whether or not the conditions mentioned at the time of primary approval have been completed.

The concerned reserved forest land comes under the grassland category and is home to various herbivores. The wild animals peopling this land include the Indian Gazelle, hyena, leopard and others. These animals are often seen passing through the nearby area, hence the area is also considered a wildlife corridor. Therefore, construction of wildlife underpasses is necessary both for new road construction and the upgradation of existing roads, said a wildlife expert on condition of anonymity.

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