The 4,000-crore INR Goregaon Mulund Link Road (GMLR) has crossed one more hurdle. The state forest department and the state government have given their nods for two 4.7-km-long tunnels that will pass under the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It is a win for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s ambitious project which now needs permission only from the National Wildlife Board.
The civic body has been planning the three-lane GMLR for the last four years. The 5.96-km road will connect Goregaon in the western suburb to Mulund in the eastern suburbs. It will be another east-west road after the Jogeshwari-Vikroli link road. Other than cutting travel time, it will also decongest the Western Express Highway. The project was stuck over construction in the eco-sensitive national park. So the BMC changed the original plan and made a provision for tunnels. “We will make tunnels 20 metre below the ground. It will not harm trees over the land.
But permissions were needed from the forest department as the area falls under them. We have got the go-ahead from the state government as well. We will start work after getting National Wildlife Board’s nod,” said a BMC officer. The permission is conditional — the BMC must spend some amount for wildlife protection. The civic body has planned to build two tunnels. One is proposed under a 200-metrehigh hill, so technically it will run 220 metres below ground. The tunnel diameter would be 15 metre. There would be connecting roads every 36 metres of the tunnel.
Last year, BMC applied to the union environment ministry’s expert appraisal committee for the road. The EAC had asked BMC to conduct an environmental impact assessment study and asked for a noise and vibration impact study in October 2017. But in April 12, 2018 the EAC said the project was only a local road, not even a state highway, so it would not require any environment clearances from the union ministry. The move left environmentalists fuming. The state’s nod still needed to be taken, and now that it has been granted, ecologists are fuming again.
“This is a plan to open the Sanjay Gandhi National Park for infrastructure projects. The tunnel will not harm wildlife directly but it will reduce water springs in the area and water levels in Tulsi and Vihar lakes will go down. The lakes supply water to the city and are vital for wildlife. Also, the tunnels open inside the park. So how will you educate wild animals not to cross the road to avoid accidents?” said Stalin D, environmentalist.