Indian PM Narendra Modi okays diversion of 77 ha of forest land for bullet train

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APRIL 27, 2018

Gujarat, Maharashtra told to speed up clearances for ₹1 lakh crore project

NEW DELHI – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given in-principle approval for the diversion of 77 hectares of forest land for the ₹1.08 lakh crore bullet train project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

The clearances have come with a rider that the remaining deficiencies on pending claims under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, in proposals submitted by Gujarat and Maharashtra, must be ironed out at the earliest. The two States have also been told to coordinate closely with the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) to speed up the project.

“The State governments and the NHSRCL must coordinate closely to enhance execution speed of the project,” read the minutes of the meeting between the Prime Minister and the Chief Secretaries of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Dadra & Nagar Haveli on Wednesday.

The application for clearance of the 77.45 hectares, spread over 42 villages in the two States, was submitted by Maharashtra on February 7, 2018, and Gujarat on April 20, 2018.

The diversion, allowed under Section 2(2) of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, could be the highest after about 47 hectares of forest land was diverted for the ambitious Mumbai Trans Harbour Link (MTHL) project and another 58 hectares for the ₹45,000 crore Dedicated Freight Corridor between Mumbai and Dadri.

“We have been on the conservative side while approving this diversion,” said an official of the State government.

During the meeting, the Prime Minister was also informed of the ‘disturbances’ in several villages of Maharashtra and Gujarat, where locals are protesting against the project.

The overall progress of the acquisition work was reported at 51% for Maharashtra and 58% for Gujarat. Mr. Modi was appraised of the pending FRA certificates yet to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change by both the States.

“We have asked the collectors to submit the FRA certificates and maps of the alternate alignments for the private land. The final approval will not be given until the loopholes are fully plugged,” senior officials said.

Earlier this month, a joint meeting of farmers from the two States was held in Surat to oppose the land acquisition proceedings in the project.

Activists said the potential loss of green cover could further aggravate the issue, especially in Maharashtra’s Palghar district where geotechnical investigations, hydrological survey, utility mapping are all being halted on a 90-km alignment due to the protests.

About 312 villages in Gujarat and Maharashtra will have to give up land while a total of 7,974 plots belonging to the Forest Department and Railways will have to be acquired for the project.

The overall progress of the acquisition work was reported at 51% for Maharashtra and 58% for Gujarat. Mr Modi was appraised of the pending FRA certificates yet to be submitted to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change by both the States.

“We have asked the collectors to submit the FRA certificates and maps of the alternate alignments for the private land. The final approval will not be given until the loopholes are fully plugged,” senior officials said.

Earlier this month, a joint meeting of farmers from the two States was held in Surat to oppose the land acquisition proceedings in the project. Activists said the potential loss of green cover could further aggravate the issue, especially in Maharashtra’s Palghar district where geotechnical investigations, hydrological survey, utility mapping are all being halted on a 90-km alignment due to the protests.

About 312 villages in Gujarat and Maharashtra will have to give up land while a total of 7,974 plots belonging to the Forest Department and Railways will have to be acquired for the project.

“In Palghar district alone, the impact of the major highway, freight corridor and bullet train project is going to be massive, both in terms of loss of forest and land acquisition,” said said Brian Lobo of the Shetkari organisation fighting for farmers and tribals affected by the bullet train in Maharashtra.

The train, with a capacity of 750 passengers, will travel at speeds between 320 km/hr and 350km/hr and is expected to reduce travel time between Ahmedabad and Mumbai to three-and-a-half hours or less from the present eight. The project is expected to be completed in seven years. “We are on course to complete this project on time,” said Manoj Saunik, secretary of transport and ports, Maharashtra government.


Courtesy/Source: The Hindu

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