For BMC’s new dams, 12 sq km forests to drown
By Accommodation Times Bureau
The civic body has proposed the construction of two new dams and a river-link project to meet the burgeoning water demands of the city. However, the construction of the dams will require that almost 12 square kilometres of forest land in Palghar district be submerged, without any possibility of afforestation.
According to the draft of the Environment Impact Assessment report, the creation of the Gargai and Pinjal dams will hamper the movement of animals by shrinking their habitats. It will also adversely impact the area’s aquatic ecology and air quality. While the report has been submitted to the state government and will later be sent to the Centre too, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is yet to receive the environmental clearances for both the projects.
When asked about these hazards, Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, additional municipal commissioner in-charge said, “We will abide by the central government’s directive and will implement their instructions fully.”
The city is supplied by 3,750 million litres (MLD) of water by seven lakes everyday but this quantity is insufficient to meet the existing population’s demands and will be grossly inadequate for the city’s future needs.
The dams will be constructed on Gargai and Pinjal rivers in Palghar district while the river-link project will connect the river Damanganga with river Pinjal. Once completed, the Gargai project will provide 440 MLD while the proposed Pinjal dam will provide 865 MLD to the city daily.
The civic body had appointed the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to create the draft EIA report and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) to create the biodiversity study.
According to the report, the creation of Gargai dam will submerge 7.19 sq km of forest land while Pinjal dam will submerge 5.15 sq km of forest area. The Gargai project covers 2 per cent of Tansa wildlife sanctuary area. While Pinjal dam won’t affect Tansa land, reserved forest land will still be submerged.
While the report doesn’t mention the exact number of trees to be felled for these projects as the inventory is still being prepared, the report clearly states that it will be impossible to replace an entire forest by compensatory afforestation.
The report, which was done over all three seasons, studies the existing soil, water, air quality and ecology of the proposed area over a period of 18 months. NEERI also studied alternative sites to the chosen ones, and explains why those are not feasible. The report then goes on the detail the impact on displaced families, their livelihoods, etc. It also details what to do in the possibility of a dam break. The report, along with project details, will be submitted to the Centre’s National Wildlife Board as well as the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), once it is cleared by the state government. All approvals are estimated to be in place by the end of 2018, so that constructions can begin then.