Amidst questions of suppressing of facts pertaining to the environmental cost of the Ken-Betwa river link project and possible detrimental impact to tiger ecology in Panna national park by independent members of the state wildlife advisory board that met on Tuesday, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan instructed that the proposal for de-notification of 90 sq kms of the Panna national park for construction of dam under the Ken-Betwa river link project be deferred till the next meeting.
The CM asked the representative of national water development agency of the union ministry of water resources- the user agency for the Ken-Betwa riverlink project who was present at the meeting- to come 'prepared' with facts in the next meeting of the board to facilitate a meaningful discussion.
The state wildlife advisory board is the first step in the clearances required for the controversial Ken Betwa river link project before it is executed. The state government had sought denotification of 90 sq kms of the 576 sq kms Panna tiger reserve for construction of a dam.
Sources said that during the meeting independent members of the board, Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), Ravi Singh of WWF India, wildlife expert MK Ranjitsinh and senior journalist Abhilash Khandekar said that the project in its present form would finish off tigers in Panna national park.
Belinda Wright said that Panna national park had made a name for itself internationally owing to regeneration of tiger population after the park had been declared tiger less.
The proposed dam would be a setback to the efforts. MK Ranjitsinh said that the environmental impact assessment report was incomplete and there was suppressing of facts pertaining to the impact of the project on the environment. He said that either tigers would survive or the dam could be constructed.
Taking an informed view, the CM said that tigers and development were both important and asked representative of the union water resources ministry to be better prepared with facts in the next meeting of the board.
Chief wildlife warden Ravi Shrivastava reiterated that the project should not go ahead in its present form.
The wildlife board also refused to allow sand mining at Son Gharial and Chambal sanctuaries. It was decided to constitute a committee to look into sections of the sanctuaries that can be first de-notified after which mining can be allowed.
Wildlife experts were wary that the proposal for de-notification of the Panna national park for construction of the dam would be pushed through in face of protests.
“The national board for wildlife had been pushing through projects in the face of protests. We were concerned that the MP government could adopt the same approach but were happy to see that our reservations are being heard,” said a member of the state wildlife advisory board.