Development or 'arrested' development: Deforestation in SNGP, afforestation in Aurangabad

Mumbai: In order to compensate for the snatching away of a patch of existing forest in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has identified 57 hectares of vacant land in distant Aurangabad for afforestation, according to an official. The proposed 10.20km long twin tunnel Borivli-Thane infrastructure project will pass under the National Park and will necessitate the clearing of a patch of the forest. 

A proposal for forest clearance has already been sent to the state, an official informed. In this proposal, there is the recommendation that compensatory afforestation be carried out at a site earmarked in Aurangabad for the purpose. "Only after final approval will the agreement be signed and the land will be handed over to the forest department in lieu of the National Park land that will be affected due to the project," the official said.  

In deference to the national park authority's objection to using the controlled blasting method for tunnelling, the authority has also decided to use a tunnel boring machine (TBM) for the purpose. Interestingly, this change in methodology has caused the project cost to escalate three-fold.

The MSRDC official informed that soon a global tender will be floated to procure the TBMs. When asked why new TBMs have to be procured, couldn't the TBMs already in use for Metro-III also be used for this project, the official explained that the diameter of the available TBMs was 6.5 metres, while a TBM with a maximum diameter of 17 metres is required in this project.

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