Opposition against the ongoing construction of the Powai Lake cycle track has intensified. Residents, environmentalists and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) students have been visiting the construction site and questioning the contractor about the project.
Environmentalists claimed that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) hadn't conducted an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) before taking up this project. When the administration is spending public money, why weren’t we consulted, questioned Amrita Bhattacharya, an environmentalist. "There's no information available about this project in the public domain. I visited the site multiple times and noticed that 162 trees have been identified. The contractor informed us that the trees will be felled for the project," Bhattacharya said. Bhattacharya has written to the Heritage Committee, stating that the Powai Lake is a heritage site and a home to Indian Marsh Crocodiles.
Sushant Bali, another environmentalist and member of Youth For Aarey (YFA) group, said that an FIR has been lodged at Powai police station against the project. "The project is being carried out without an EIA. The lake is the natural habitat of crocodiles. The ongoing reclamation work will pose a threat to the species," Bali said.
Earlier, on September 19, a cyclist group, Konkan Pedals, also held a protest at the spot. Gaurang Kanvinde, a member of this group, said that more than 15 members gathered at Powai Lake to protest against the project. "A cycling track at exotic locations is not preferable. Instead the administration should work towards improving the roads and make dedicated lanes for cycles there," Kanvinde said.
Earlier, on Monday, a team from the forest department and the telsidar’s office conducted a survey at the construction site. The report has been prepared and is being sent to the higher authorities. "The cycle track is not being constructed in a forest area, so the BMC will not require our NOC. However, we have made a report, stating that the lake is a home to crocodiles and have forwarded it to the higher authorities," said a senior forest department official. "The lake has not been demarcated as a natural habitat site for crocodiles by the government. It needs to be marked as an eco-sensitive zone before or else the project would continue as usual," the official said.
A senior civic official, requesting anonymity, said that EIA is required for natural wetlands and waterbodies. However, Powai Lake is an artificial water body.
A senior official from the Tehsildar's office said that a meeting between the BMC, forest department and his office will take place this week.
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