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‘Bullet’ Train Project

‘Bullet’ Train Project

The ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) or ‘Bullet’ Train Project has mystically secured the wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) clearances from the Union Environment Ministry committees, despite much consternation, confusion, clamour and resistance. This is a distressing trend observed with most other destructive, developmental project clearances. Apart from the massive damage this will do along its length, the train corridor is asking for the diversion of almost 100 hectares (forest and non-forest land) from Mumbai’s Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), around five hectares from the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWLS) and about four hectares from the Thane Creek Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary (TCFWLS).  This is unprecedented and bodes ill for the future of Mumbai in an era of climate change.

Photo: Gaurav Shirodkar

These clearances were allegedly wrongly obtained without officially acquiring all of the required 1,434.4 ha. of land needed for the project. The land acquisition is being opposed by farmers, tribal groups and activists in Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Environmentalists fear the construction, which will cause havoc in ecologically sensitive areas on account of the inevitable ‘borrow and dump’ pits inside and outside the wildlife sanctuaries and national park. Additional issues include the interruption of wildlife corridors, sound pollution, the felling of thousands of trees, including mangroves. The MAHSR corridor will also violate vital CRZ areas of Bharuch in Gujarat and will cause damage to the shoreline of the Narmada river, causing downstream impacts that have not adequately been tabulated to both aquatic and terrestrial biodiversity.

The project first came to public notice in December 2015, when a joint statement between India and Japan was released, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inaugurated the project in September 2017. The project is being enabled through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which is providing India with a soft loan to meet 81 per cent of the total cost, which amounts to a staggering INR. 1.08 trillion.

According to Mongabay – India, tribal groups in Palghar in Maharashtra and farmers in Gujarat have sent a letter to JICA stating their opposition to the ‘bullet’ train project.

The citizens of Mumbai can take heart from other successful citizen-led movements. In the capital city of Delhi, Gurugram and Faridabad, people raised their collective voices against the proposal to amend the Punjab Land Preservation (PLPA), which would have allowed for the clearing of a portion of the Aravallis (see India Scan). When the National Green Tribunal was petitioned against the Haryana government’s alleged plans to fell more than 7,000 trees for a group housing project by Bharti Land Limited, the NGT held that the Aravallis in Faridabad district would be considered a deemed forest.

Write to Japan’s Prime Minister, India’s Prime Minister, and to the Union Minister of Environment highlighting the following facts: the project is anti-people and anti-environment, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail (MAHSR) alignment passes through ecologically sensitive wildlife habitats including Protected Areas, that wildlife and CRZ clearances given to the project were without proper due diligence and that they must be revoked.

Address your letters to:

Mr. Shinzo Abe
Prime Minister of Japan
Cabinet Secretariat, Government of Japan
1-6-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku,
Tokyo 100-8968, Japan.
Fax: +81-3-3592-0179

Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minister of India,
South Block, New Delhi.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan
Minister, Environment, Forests and Climate Change,
Indira Paryavaran Bhavan, Jorbagh Road,
New Delhi – 110 033.

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First published in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXIX No. 4, April 2019.


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