World Environment Day: Activists protest against transport plan to cut down trees


A group of young people under the auspices of the NGO Swacch Association will meet on Saturday in Samvidhan Chowk on the occasion of World Environment Day to silently protest against a project which they say would swallow up around 50,000 trees once ended.

The project, Intermodal Station (IMS), envisions the convergence of railways, buses and metro and is expected to take place in the town of Agni in Pune. Built in two phases, the project will eventually occupy approximately 400 acres in the heart of the city, requiring the massive cutting of centuries-old trees.

The Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC) invited objections to the felling of 4,930 trees in the first phase of the project. Initially, a press advisory issued on May 29 gave people seven days to file objections. After protests from environmental activists, the NMC issued a corrigendum, extending the deadline to 30 days.

The Rs 1,260 crore project, a brainchild of Union Transport Minister and Nagpur MP Nitin Gadkari, is being executed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

The project is being developed in Ajni which has a train station, a sprawling railway colony, a metro station and a central prison spread over several hectares. As part of the project, Gadkari said, the settlement will be moved to another location and the prison moved out of town.

In the first phase, the project will span 44 acres with an integrated facility for rail, bus and metro users. “The idea is to facilitate the smooth transition of travelers from three different modes to interchange in the integrated facility,” said NHAI project director Abhijeet Jichkar.

Sharad Paliwal, secretary of the Swacch Association, said: “The project will defeat approximately 50,000 large and small trees on 400 acres. We strongly oppose this destruction of the environment.

Jayadip Das, an activist, said: “There is no demand for such a project and Nagpur does not need it. But if it needs to be built, it can be moved to Khapri, outside the city. Varanasi, the only other city in India where the IMS is under construction, also has it about 20 km from the city.

He added: “The second phase of the project will include shopping malls, hotels, cinemas, office buildings, etc. This means that the project will not be viable on its own. So, should we go ahead with this project which would destroy the lungs of the city?

Anusuya Kale Chhabrani, president of the Swacch association, said: “No environmental authorization has been taken for the project and no environmental impact assessment has yet been carried out. They say railway projects do not need environmental clearance, which is not true. We argued that it was necessary.

Activists filed a PIL in front of the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court in December 2020. “It was on hold due to pandemic reasons. He’s likely to be listed soon, ”Paliwal said.

Jichkar said, “The first phase of the project is on 44 acres. The railroads have a total of 440 acres, of which we take about 148 acres on which the staff colony is located. The colony will be moved to where the railroad subsidiary, Container Corporation of India was previously located.

“Nagpur has two train stations – main and Ajni, bus stations in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra and an airport in different parts of the city. Passengers coming from out of town must take long detours to reach these transport embarkation points. IMS will make it easy for them in one place.

Jichkar said: “Any upcoming project on railway land does not require an environmental clearance. This only requires an Environmental Management Plan (EMP), which we have prepared, to mitigate any loss caused by the project to the local ecology.

The NHAI EMP proposes to plant five saplings for each tree felled in the designated area. He also ensures that an authority will be appointed to oversee the strict implementation of the EMP. Campaigners, however, said compensatory afforestation has most often been eye drops.


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