Malad sewage treatment plant in MOEF’S Catch-22

Mumbai : 23 Aug, 2019m(Hindustan Times)

Nod will be upgraded to stage II only if BMC fulfils 22 conditions

MUMBAI: Paying ₹11 crore for compensatory afforestation and planting five times the trees that will be lost are among the 22 conditions imposed by the Union environment ministry on the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to give final clearance to felling of 25,900 mangrove trees for the city’s largest sewage treatment plant (STP) at Malad. 

HT on Thursday reported how the BMC faces a tough test to divert 35 hectares (ha) – 9 ha in Tarodi in Thane, 17 ha in Bhopar in Kalyan, and 9 ha in Mogharpada in Thane – of reserved forest land for the plant. The Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) issued a letter on Thursday, giving ‘in-principle’ approval or stage I clearance for the project. HT has a copy of the letter undersigned by Dr E Arockia Lenin, scientist, MOEFCC. Some of the other conditions are restricting felling of trees to the minimum number possible, demarcation of proper boundary, no transfer of forest land to other agencies and fulfilling compliances under Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. “Violation of any of these conditions will amount to violation of FCA, and action would be taken as per the MOEFCC guidelines,” the letter said.

The ₹1,500-crore project is expected to treat 847 million litres of sewage a day by using influent and effluent pumping stations. It will cater to a projected popula tion of 5.6 million people by 2031. “Stage I clearance under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980 means the BMC can’t fell even a single tree in this mangrove reserved forest yet,” said Virendra Tiwari, additional principal chief conservator of forest (Mantralaya). 

“Only after each of these 22 conditions are complied with, the BMC will prepare another proposal before the regional empowered committee of the central government for final consideration or stage II clearance.” 

Tiwari said even after stage II clearance, the Maharashtra government will issue a forest diversion order. “According to the NGT, the order passed by us will invite objections, which can be filed before NGT. If there are no objections, the land will be finally handed over to the BMC. It is a long-drawn process, but the primary objective is to ensure maximum mangrove trees are protected,” he said. Mahesh Thakur, chief engineer (sewerage project) said all conditions will be complied with. 

“It is crucial to treat our sewage and ensure untreated wastewater does not enter the sea directly. Secondly, loss of mangroves is a serious issue,” said Shyam Asolekar, professor from the IIT-B.

 

CLEARANCE UNDER FOREST CONSERVATION ACT, 1980

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MOEFCC) grants approval for projects under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 in two stages - the first is in-principle approval (stage I clearance) with conditions imposed on the project proponent, and the second (stage II) when those conditions are fulfilled.