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Biodiversity assessment initiated in Mumbai's SGNP lands ahead of twin tunnel construction

As per reports, the upcoming tunnels will reduce the travel time between eastern & western suburbs from an hour to 15 minutes.

In view of the twin tunnel project between Borivali and Thane, Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has stepped forward with a biodiversity assessment survey at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP). As per reports, the upcoming tunnels will reduce the travel time between two prominent locations from an hour to 15 minutes. Reportedly, they pass through the boundary of the SGNP protected area on their way and thereby, the current intervention was necessary.

High-risk varieties of biodiversity to be identified as a part of the survey

It has been reported that BNHS was roped in for the role of a consultant for the SGNP twin-tunnel project. This happened under the supervision of the National Board for Wildlife when wildlife clearance was being given for the scheme in 2019. Now, the BNHS will create a comprehensive log of all kinds of plants and animals found in the region before the start of the construction work in March 2022. Then, the classes of life, which are highly vulnerable to tunneling work will be identified.

As per reports, Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) has filed an elementary submission in this regard, which mentions leopard, sambar deer, Indian python, Indian cobra and Russell's vipers. Additionally, reports state that the document also comprised information about different kinds of plants, mammals, birds and other categories of wildlife important from a conservation point of view.

Safety of the wildlife to be ensured before the project commences

Reportedly, the SGNP lands provide a habitat for a wide range of flora and fauna, including plant species, migratory, land and water birds, insects, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, butterflies and a range of fish. In November 2017, a report by MSRDC had pointed out that interventions like drilling can lead to disturbances for the wildlife. While this would result in the dispersion of mammals, birds and other species, it was stated that the effect will be short-term and minor.

Recently, the aware citizens from Mumbai raised concerns over the exemption of the project from environmental clearance despite covering regions of a protected park. Thereby, it had become necessary to evaluate the consequence of the scheme from an environmental perspective.

Important to analyse cumulative impact for better understanding

Further, reports state that the director of NGO Vanashakti stated that aquifers feeding Tulis and Vihar lakes are faced with dangers due to the slated tunneling work. Additionally, he highlighted the importance of accounting for the total cumulative impact of multiple projects around the region in order to achieve a better understanding of the situation. Given the ecological significance of this hotspot, it has to conserved in the best possible way.

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