Charges of violation

Published : Jul 08, 2000 00:00 IST


IN terms of potential damage and displacement of people and wildlife, the proposed Mumbai-Pune expressway has already got a bad name. The Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) has filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court challenging the project.

Clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is essential for a project like this one because part of the construction is on reserve forest land. In May 1999, two officers from the MoEF were invited to inspect the extent of the violation of the conditions for the santion to biuld roads in the Ghats. The BEAG says that the officers agreed that there were violations but that to date the MoEF has not acted to prevent these. According to the BEAG, a committee was formed to rectify the viola tions but since its members comprised those involved with the expressway project, the BEAG objected. A new committee was formed but the BEAG is kept in the dark as to who its members are. The BEAG lists the following violations:

* Instead of the stipulated 10-km stretch, the Environment Impact Assessment study was carried out only for a 3-km stretch.

* There are 130 settlements of workers in the 3-km stretch and 475 in the 10-km stretch.

* The study has not drawn on existing experience of the first operational private sector road in Madhya Pradesh, nor on the operational experience of national highways.

* One-third of the proposed expressway passes through the residual wilderness of three major ecosystems in the Western Ghats. The expressway will violate the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the E nvironment (Protection) Act, 1986.

* The study has not involved the local populace despite the fact that the expressway will severely affect their lives. The expressway will restrict access to grazing grounds, and two-thirds of the expressway is through agricultural lands. The traditional passage of Dhangars, or wandering shepherds, will be blocked. They have not been involved in the EIA study.

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