The Indian wildlife will have to bear the brunt of upcoming irrigation projects but not mining ones, Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh has decided.
The ministry has decided to allow irrigation projects even if they lead to submergence of wildlife areas. The same rule will not apply for mining projects in close proximity of national parks and sanctuaries.
“Irrigation projects are absolutely essential and cannot be put on par with mining projects,” Ramesh said, in an email response to HT.
His reaction came after the Forest Advisory Committee on Friday had some reservations over impact of Brutanga Irrigation Project on Baisipalli Wildlife Sanctuary and Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Nayagarh district of Orissa.
Ramesh on August 31 had given in-principle approval to the project almost a decade after it was initiated. The ministry had also stipulated studies on impact on wildlife as one of the conditions in the in-principle approval.
“I categorically deny that there is any re-think on approval given to Brutanga project,” Ramesh said.
But, local NGOs and wildlifers had protested against the decision saying it would impact movement of elephants across river Brutanga, on which a reservoir will be build submerging 1,500 hectares of land. The project is aimed at providing irrigation in 50,000 hectares of cultivable land in Nayagarh district.
Similarly, in Polavaram Dam in Andhra Pradesh, which the minister allowed in July, wildlife in the Papi sanctuary will get submerged affecting elephant and other wildlife population.
Ramesh is of the view that irrigation projects are important for nation’s food security while balancing the environmental concerns. That is the
probable reason that Ramesh had set aside wildlife concerns for two important irrigation plans approved since July this year.
In case of mining plans, especially in coal sector, the ministry has opted for zero tolerance to adverse impact on wildlife.
Ramesh had also made it clear that no mining projects will be allowed in ‘no-go’ areas, which constitute 35 per cent of forest areas where coal mining is being done.
The ministry is also looking at extending its ‘go’ and ‘no-go’ policy for other mining activities such as ores and bauxite.