The Maharashtra government on Monday said infrastructure projects in the state funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency would not be affected following reports that the agency has stopped releasing funds for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad bullet train corridor, PTI reported.
“The land acquisition for projects such as Nagpur-Mumbai Samruddhi corridor, the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, the Navi Mumbai greenfield airport is almost complete,” said Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) UPS Madan. “The Maharashtra government has not faced any staunch opposition for these projects and hence it is unlikely that funding will stop for such projects.”
The Japanese agency, which is providing the loan for the Rs 1.10-lakh crore project, has asked the government to address the questions surrounding land acquisition, The New Indian Express reported on Saturday. The Centre has formed a committee to look into the matter, the newspaper added.
Scroll.in has reached out to the Japan International Cooperation Agency for a comment on the matter and will update the story when they respond.
Krishnakant Chauhan of the Gujarat Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti said the Japanese agency has not stopped funding the whole project. “For that, their guidelines have a provision for setting up a review committee, after which they will decide,” he said.
The agency, he explained, releases funding for projects in installments. “So at the moment, JICA has not released funds for this current installment, because of land acquisition and other issues that farmers have raised,” Chaudhan said. “We had also sent representations to them. This may not be enough to shut down the bullet train but there will be major implications for the project’s timeline and costs.”
When asked about the Centre’s decision to set up a committee, the environmentalist said the Indian government has presumed that people are opposing the project only because they want more compensation. “But there are many more issues,” he added. “Like the fact that they do not have clear project planning, or that due procedures are not being followed for land acquisition, or that the social and environmental impact assessment reports are not in the public domain. One cannot just rush ahead with a project of this scale and with these implications.”
Case in Gujarat High Court
Around 1,000 farmers in Gujarat submitted affidavits to the High Court on September 18, opposing the project. They said most of the farmers were not ready to part with their land. About 1,400 hectares of land in Gujarat and Maharashtra need to be acquired for the project. Of this, 1,120 hectares are privately owned. The farmers alleged that their land was being acquired without their consent and they were not being provided any rehabilitation or resettlement package.
The High Court has asked the Centre to respond to the farmers’ petitions by September 26, failing which it may provide interim relief to the petitioners. The petitioners pointed out that environmental impact assessment and social impact assessment reports for the project date back to 2010, and asked the court to consider the cumulative impact of other projects such as the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, the Western Dedicated Freight Corridor and express highways in the region.
The project was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in September 2017.