What is the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor all about? Part II

Quick Note: This post is the second of a two-part series on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor.

In the previous post, I discussed the scale and context of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. The project has been billed as so wide-reaching that its own objectives have been changing over the years. For instance, the development of MRTS projects and a solar plant have been added to the DMIC’s ambit, along with providing expertise for building a convention centre in the national capital![1] I broadly discussed some of the socio-economic concerns arising out of the project last time. In this post, I would like to focus on some specific environmental concerns raised as a result of going through with the project.

One, the foundational idea behind the corridor will enhance carbon dioxide emissions and increase vehicular traffic. Two, the corridor passes through extremely water-scarce regions in the country and will create an even greater stress on the water resources. Three, the corridor will pass through important bio-reserves and will create threats to the quantum of biodiversity in India. Let us look at each of them in detail.

First, the very idea of the industrial corridor is based on equating wider roads with better development. The plan to make a new, wide highway for the movement of private vehicles is going to promote the use of self-driven vehicles for private as well as commercial purposes. Carbon emissions will only increase due to greater usage of vehicles. Further, environment clearances have already been given for four thermal and gas-based power plants across the corridor.[2] Such conventional uses of energy will increase carbon emissions and add to the degrading standard of air quality in northern India. This clearly indicates that the idea of developing ‘smart cities’ is merely a cosmetic one because they are based in fuel generated by thermal power and increasing vehicular usage. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has recognized the potential for reduction in carbon dioxide emissions through extensive use of the dedicated freight corridor in a report on the DMIC.[3] But this is made redundant by the use of fossil fuel resources for power generation and for the promotion of vehicular usage over large distances. It will also waste a lot of existing resources because there are a number of urban centers, such as Pithampur in Madhya Pradesh, which already have an inventory of unused factories etc. and the construction of entirely new zones will waste a lot of resources and impact the environment and worsen it.

Second, the project disregards the water needs for irrigation in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh or the needs of the farmers or residents of these areas.[4] The DMIC seeks to take two-thirds of its water needs from rivers and the remaining from groundwater.[5] Farmers and other users already face great strain while retrieving water for agriculture and other purposes. Even existing cities, such as Manesar, Indore, and Surat, along the corridor use water from the same resources and there has been no ecological assessment of how the DMIC could use water sustainably without affecting the needs and usage of the existing users. Rivers require at least 50% of their volume to remain in the rivers to ensure that they are able to self-replenish and self-clean.[6] However, if the DMIC plan is put into operation, then all the rivers will have no volume left for their preservation. In fact, such is the desperation that the DMIC seeks to draw water even from seasonal rivers such as the Luni, in Rajasthan.[7] Further, not only will this industrial plan destroy the rivers but it will also affect the groundwater levels and its quantity. The rise in new cities and increasing population settlements will take up a lot of the groundwater and the new industries being set up will also contaminate and pollute the groundwater simultaneously. The perspective plan of the DMIC itself acknowledges that two-thirds of the districts under the DMIC are in overexploited or critical stages as far as groundwater is concerned.[8]

Third, the DMIC is having a major impact on the wildlife and biodiversity along its route. In terms of forests/mangroves, towards the southern part of the project, a lot of mangrove forests as well the foothills of the Western Ghats are prone to being overrun by the expansion of roads and rail lines. The conversion of land use from the adjoining fertile land to industrial zones or airports will also cause ecological damage to the leeward side of the Western Ghats.[9]In a specific instance of directly impacting wildlife, the DMIC passes through Balaram Ambaji Wildlife Sanctuary that is known to contain sloth bear and leopard populations.[10] However, the National Board for Wildlife cleared the proposal for laying railway tracks through the sanctuary without requiring any preconditions such as the erection of fences.[11] More recently, the Board recommended doubling the width of a road passing through the same wildlife sanctuary.[12] Just as speeding cars have reduced the panther population in southern Rajasthan, speeding trains have now been granted authority to subject sloth bears and leopards to the same fate.

 

[1]About IICCL, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC),http://www.dmicdc.com/iicc;About DMICDC – An Overview, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/about-DMICDC.

[2]Power Projects: Environmental Clearance, DELHI MUMBAI INDUSTRIAL CORRIDOR DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (DMICDC), available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/cpage.aspx?pgid=62.

[3]Prem Pangotra and PR Shukla, Promoting Low Carbon Transport in India, Infrastructure for Low-Carbon Transport in India: A Case Study of the Delhi-Mumbai Dedicated Freight Corridor, UNITED NATIONS ENVIRONMENT PROGRAM (UNEP), August 2012, available at: http://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/16964/DFC.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

[4]Nitin Desai, This Corridor is Paved with Bad Policies, TEHELKA, August 11, 2012, available at: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Op110812corridor.asp.

[5]Romi Khosla and Vikram Soni, Delhi-Mumbai Corridor: A Water Disaster in the Making?, Vol. XLVII, No. 10, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, March 10, 2012, p. 16, available at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Delhi-Mumbai%20Corridor.pdf.

[6]Romi Khosla and Vikram Soni, Delhi-Mumbai Corridor: A Water Disaster in the Making?, Vol. XLVII, No. 10, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, March 10, 2012, p. 16, available at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Delhi-Mumbai%20Corridor.pdf.

[7]Nitin Desai, This Corridor is Paved with Bad Policies, TEHELKA, August 11, 2012, available at: http://archive.tehelka.com/story_main53.asp?filename=Op110812corridor.asp.

[8]Downloads, DMICDC, available at: http://www.dmicdc.com/frmDownloads.aspx?pgid=43; Romi Khosla and Vikram Soni, Delhi-Mumbai Corridor: A Water Disaster in the Making?, Vol. XLVII, No. 10, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL WEEKLY, March 10, 2012, p. 16, available at: http://www.indiaenvironmentportal.org.in/files/file/Delhi-Mumbai%20Corridor.pdf.

[9]Raksha Kumar, Delhi Mumbai Corridor, How the World’s Largest Infrastructure Project is Uprooting Indian Farmers, THE GUARDIAN, September 15, 2015, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/sep/15/indias-future-dmic-delhi-mumbai-industrial-corridor.

[10]Himanshu Kaushik, Bear Safety on Wrong Track, TIMES OF INDIA, January 28, 2015, available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Bear-safety-on-wrong-track/articleshow/46035984.cms.

[11]Himanshu Kaushik, Bear Safety on Wrong Track, TIMES OF INDIA, January 28, 2015, available at: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Bear-safety-on-wrong-track/articleshow/46035984.cms.

[12]Minutes of the 47thMeeting of the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife, F.No. 6-4/2018 WL, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Wildlife Division), Government of India, February 7, 2018, http://www.moef.gov.in/sites/default/files/Minutes%20of%2047th%20meeting%20of%20Standing%20Committee%20of%20National%20Board%20for%20Wildlife%20%281%29.pdf.

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