The Regional Empowered Committee (REC) attached to the union ministry of environment, forest clearance and climate change, at its recent meeting approved the diversion of 32.6921 hectares (ha) of forest land for the project to construct a 7.021-km-long coastal road from Amra Marg to Mumbai Trans Harbour Link road (MTHL) Junction, including the Airport Link Road at Targaryen village in Raigad district. The proposal was moved by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) as the coastal road provides connectivity with MTHL, Amra Marg, the Airport Terminal Road and already developed nodal arterial roads for optimum judicious use. The approval was given based on certain riders.
CIDCO argued that there is a need to provide an exclusive road to serve the traffic demand arising out of the developments expected from Navi Mumbai International Airport (NMIAL) and Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT). The proposed coastal road will serve as an important link in the overall transport network around the proposed NMIAL.
The REC observed that the total forest area proposed for diversion is 32.6921 ha and the proposal also involves 11.4185 ha of non-forest land, thereby the total area required for the project is 44.1106 ha. Of the total length of the road (7.021 km), 5.8 km is the coastal road and 1.2 km is the elevated Airport Link Road. CIDCO informed the REC that 2.6947 ha is overlapping with the MTHL.
The REC brought to the CIDCO's notice that the NOC obtained from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) was not submitted along with the proposal. Accordingly, it asked CIDCO to obtain a NOC and submit it to the integrated regional office (IRO).
The committee was further informed that CIDCO has requested the forest department to consider 32.6921 ha of land out of 126.018 ha as compensatory afforestation (CA) land for this project. The state government considered the issue and is of the opinion that as this land is not suitable for CA, it may be accepted as equivalent CA land and actual CA can be carried on equivalent degraded forest land. Accordingly, the CA has proposed over 32.6921 ha of degraded forest land at Shevare Khurd village in Jalgaon district.
“The committee was informed that work has been started on non-forest land. It is a technical violation of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, and the concerned deputy conservator of the forest will calculate the area worked in non-forest land and additional CA will be carried out on equivalent degraded forest land adjoining to proposed CA land,” it said.
Further, the REC observed that compliance of Scheduled Tribe and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, has not been submitted along with the proposal. It opined that as per the new Forest Conservation Rules, 2022, the state government shall ensure complete compliance with the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
The REC has asked to seek the Bombay High Court's permission for the felling of mangrove trees before commencement of the work. Wherever possible the avenue plantation of 8 ft tall plants shall be carried out by the state forest department at the cost of the user agency as per Indian Roads Congress norms. The IRO (Nagpur) will issue Stage- I approval after receipt of complete information from the state government on shortcomings observed by IRO during examination of the proposal along with violation report.