80,487 trees and counting: Bullet train will dent mango, chikoo exports, say Gujarat's fruit farmers -Aarefa Johari
The proposed high-speed rail line cuts right through South Gujarat’s prosperous Agri Export Zone, and farmers are not happy
In 2007, when the state-owned Gujarat Gas company acquired land in South Gujarat to lay underground gas pipelines, Mahesh Patel lost 130 mango and chikoo trees from his farm in Navsari district. Each fruit tree yielded an average annual profit of Rs 4,000, which meant he lost trees worth Rs 5 lakh a year. But that was not his only loss.
“The gas line cut through my farm diagonally and the portion of land left on one side was too narrow to grow any trees,” said Patel, who owns six acres in Navsari’s Manekpor village.
Now, Patel’s farm faces the threat of another linear incursion. “They want to build the bullet train right through the middle of my remaining land, and I will lose even more trees,” he said.
Manekpor is one of the many villages in South Gujarat’s “Agri Export Zone” that has prospered because of its high-quality mangoes and chikoos. It is also one of the 312 villages in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Dadra and Nagar Haveli that fall in the path of India’s first proposed bullet train corridor from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. This elevated 508-km high-speed rail line is scheduled to be built with the assistance of the Japanese government at a cost of Rs 1.1 lakh crore.
The bullet train is one of the Bharatiya Janata Party government’s pet infrastructure proposals, meant to benefit textile traders, diamond merchants and other professionals by cutting down travel time between Mumbai and Ahmedabad from seven hours to just two hours. In the process, it will take over at least 866 hectares of fertile farmland in Gujarat and Adivasi and forest land in Maharashtra’s Palghar district.
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