Green link that will go missing: 5,500 trees to be cut for augmentation of Mumbai-Pune Express-way

Mumbai: Just recently, the Bombay High Court noted that there should not be a choice of development over environment, since both are important. However, for yet another infrastructure project, 5,500 trees spread on 83 hectares of forestland face the axe for the ‘missing link’ project proposed on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has received approval from the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) for the felling of the trees. An official from MSRDC confirmed, although in principle they have got the approval, the environment ministry has attached 50 suggestions for compliance.

The suggestions include compensatory land in exchange for 83 hectares forestland, plantation of trees and carrying out controlled blasting for tunnelling in the ghat. “We are confident of getting the final approval. However, until we get the final clearance, the appointed contractors have been asked to begin the work on the non-forest land,” remarked the official.

According to the MSRDC, in lieu of the forestland to be cleared, the MSRDC will have to plant 40,000 trees on the unoccupied land of the Expressway. Moreover, they will have to look after the trees for five years. In addition, the authority will give an equal area of land in Jalna to the state forest dept.

Also, the MSRDC will have to pay the MoEF&CC Rs25 lakh per hectare, to carry out afforestation on the land in Jalna. The official said, “The forest department officials have agreed to take the land in Jalna and are in the process of transferring the land title in the name of forest department.”

The missing link project work is expected to commence on the non-forest land within the next 10 days, mainly at the two intersection points — first, on the 5kms stretch from Khalapur Toll Naka and second, near the Sinhgad Institute at Vadgoan in Pune.

The augmentation of the Mumbai-Pune Expressway was proposed following heavy traffic and landslides being reported at the Khandala ghat section. At present, the existing Expressway and the National Highway-4 meet near Khalapur Toll Plaza and part near the Khandala exit.

The section from Adoshi tunnel to the Khandala exit is a six-lane road but due to a large number of vehicles plying on the 10-lane road (six lanes of Mumbai-Pune Expressway and four lanes of the NH-4), there is lot of traffic. The project has been undertaken to decongest the expressway.

The new link will begin at Khopoli through an interchange to Kusgoan at the Pune-end of the expressway. There will be speed restrictions and other preventive measures to avoid any road mishaps while construction is in process. The MSRDC officials have assured that there will be no blockages on the expressway.

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