MUMBAI: Wildlife activists said the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor (WDFC) project, which received clearance from the apex court last week, should not “disrupt movement of animals” in sanctuaries.
Campaigners feel that the railway network, which will cut through Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and Tungareshwar sanctuary, may endanger natural habitat. They said the planners of the Rs.26,000-crore project should also “disrupt movement of animals” and envisage construction of underpasses or bridges. “The forest passageway is important as it facilitates movement of animals, including leopards between the two sanctuaries. Officials should ensure that their movement is not affected,” said a wildlife expert.
“The project has to take into consideration that animals use that corridor for migration. It could disturb the area connecting SGNP and Tungareshwar sanctuary,” said Vidya Athreya, researcher at Centre for Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society. “The project should have underpasses or over bridges so that animals can keep using their route. There ought to be a study on the use and how a way can be made without disturbing the balance of the forest,” she added.
Another wildlife expert said that since the corridor will pass through Tungareshwar (between Vasai and Diva stations) the introduction of railway could scare away the animals.
“The corridor has to take into consideration that animals use the area for migration. It could disturb the stretch connecting SGNP and Tungareshwar sanctuary,” said Vidya Athreya, researcher at Centre for Wildlife Studies and Wildlife Conservation Society. “The project’s planners need to take maximum precaution while laying the new tracks in forest areas without disturbing its balance,” she added.
A government official allayed concern about environmental problems. Said an official, “There will be no environmental problems. The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL), a public sector undertaking under Railway ministry, shall provide underpasses for free movement of wild animals, chain link fencing for protection, and as a contribution towards the environment and wildlife protection, funds for the upkeep and improvement of SGNP apart from compensatory afforestation in the region.”
The multi-crore WDFC project last week got a green nod from the Supreme court hearing the case under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
Decks are being cleared for phase II of the project from Vadodara (Gujarat) to JNPT. “The project’s success depends on its connectivity to the nation’s busiest port, we will ensure that key clearances are in place for its execution,” said an official.
“The Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (a PSUpublic sector undertaking under the railways ministry) has made efforts for minimum disturbance to the ecologically and environmentally sensitive areas by making detours as much as possible. It has resolved to protect the environment and its surroundings around the railway network,” said a senior government official.
During the process of receiving the final nod from the Supreme Court, planners approached all the authorities and got with a resolve for full commitment to the protection of natural resources, thereby getting permission from the office of principle chief conservator of forests, Maharashtra, the State Board of Wildlife (SBWL) and followed by clearance from the National Board of Wildlife.
They have incorporated all the stipulations suggesting measures to minimize threat and disturbance to wildlife before submitting the application to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), constituted by the Supreme Court, a source said.
The CEC had recommended the proposal of freight corridor to pass through the national park after conducting a detailed inspection of the site with the project’s planners and state forest officials.