Work on the underground twin tunnels passing through Sanjay Gandhi National Park, a protected area, connecting Borivli and Thane will commence in March next year, announced Shiv Sena leader and state urban development minister Eknath Shinde on Thursday. However, the project has still not received a single forest/wildlife clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forests and climate change.
The announcement comes in the backdrop of the BMC elections to be held in February 2022 and promises to cut down the commute time between Borivli and Thane from the 60 minutes to 15 minutes. The 11.8km stretch comprising 10.2km double tunnel will have six lanes and connect the Western Express Highway and Ghodbunder Road passing through Tikuji-Ni-Wadi. The project is likely to be completed in 5.5 years.
The estimated Rs 11,235.43-crore project, which has been on the drawing board for over two years now, requires 100 acres (40.4 hectares) from SGNP and another 42 acres (17 hectares) of private land. “The Thane-Borivli subterranean tunnel’s Detailed Project Report is completed and land acquisition has begun,” said a press release issued by Shinde’s office. The acquisition is being carried out by the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation that is executing the project.
According to sources at the SGNP, the proposal was forwarded to the additional principal conservator of forests, Nagpur for diversion of forest land under the Forest Conservation Act. It was also forwarded to the chief conservator of forests (wildlife) for his clearance over a year ago.
“Both the proposals are still under process. If the approvals come under the FCA then it will go to the regional office of the MoEFCC at Nagpur for its clearance and it has the authority to allow diversion of up to 100 acres which would then be the final clearance. In case the CCF (wildlife) clears the project then it will need the approval of the State Board for Wildlife and then that of the National Board for Wildlife,” said sources.
Environmentalist Anish Andheria said without the forest and wildlife clearances no construction can start on forest land. G Mallikarjuna, director of SGNP, said though the tunnel will run underground, the land will continue in the possession of the forest department.