Wildlife experts have questioned the MP government’s move to seek fresh reports on the Ken-Betwa river link project from field director, Panna tiger reserve (PTR) and chief wildlife warden (CWLW) of the state, prior to the state wildlife advisory board meeting on Tuesday, even though reports filed for the previous meeting were never questioned by members.
During the meeting of the board on August 11, a decision on the Ken-Betwa project had been deferred due to opposition by independent members of the board, who accused the state government of treating them as ‘rubber stamps’ for approving projects.
The chief minister had assuaged the members saying that their opinion would be considered.
However, the state government, in the first week of September, announced a meeting on September 22 on the project.
The state wildlife board’s approval is mandatory for the project to seek approval of the national wildlife board and finally, the Supreme Court.
Sources said that during the previous meeting, the chief minister, as chairperson of the state wildlife advisory board, had asked the national water development agency (NWDA) to prepare a fresh feasibility report on the Ken Betwa river link project after members found numerous loopholes in it.
“There was no discussion on getting fresh reports on the project from either the field director or the CWLW,” said a member of the board.
“It will be interesting to see if the fresh reports filed by the field director, PTR and CWLW are different from the previous reports,” said a member of the board.
R Sriniwas Murthy, the then field director, PTR had rejected the Ken-Betwa riverlink project in his report. The new report is being filed by Alok Kumar, who replaced Murthy as field director, PTR.
As per the proposal, 90 sq km of prime tiger habitat of the Panna tiger reserve would be submerged in the project. The proposed dam would create 3.23 lakh hectares of irrigation command area in Chhatarpur and Tikamgarh districts of Madhya Pradesh and 2.52 lakh hectare irrigation command area in Jhansi and Hamirpur districts of Uttar Pradesh.
CWLW Ravi Shrivastava was unavailable for comment.
NGO flags issues for wildlife board meeting
Ajay Dubey of Bhopal-based NGO Prayatna has written to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan drawing his attention to issues that should be taken up at the meeting of the state wildlife advisory board slated to be held on Tuesday.
In his letter to the CM, Dubey has sought the his intervention as chairman of the board to expedite the process of getting Asiatic lions from Gir sanctuary in Gujarat, as ordered by the Supreme Court in April 2014.
He has also demanded the scrapping of the Ken-Betwa river link project on the grounds that it would submerge large tracts of forest land of the Panna tiger reserve.
Among other issues, Dubey has also demanded that a separate cadre of wildlife veterinarians be created in the state, in addition to the scrapping of the wildlife safaris announced in the buffer areas of Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarh as they were in violation of existing rules.
Further, Dubey has sought an immediate notification of the Omkareshwar national park, the elevation of the Ratapani sanctuary to the status of a tiger reserve, and adoption of special protection measures for tigers sighted around the capital.
Lastly, Dubey has asked the CM to include non-government members with high integrity like MK Ranjitsinh in the state wildlife advisory board to file the void created by the resignation of retired forest officer PM Lad.