Wildlife activists have raised the red flag over four of the five key projects mooted by the defence ministry, stating that they would upset the country’s fragile wildlife population.
Irked by this, the defence ministry is planning to approach the Supreme Court for seeking exemption of defence projects from the mandatory environment approval process.
Even the nod for the lone project, which was granted by the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) at a recent meeting, came with five strict conditions. It refused to clear the others, citing the adverse impact these projects could have on the local wildlife.
The Border Security Force (BSF), which wanted the panel’s nod for a route through the Dampa tiger reserve in Mizoram and the laying of another road through the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, made a strong pitch for these proposals.
Speaking on the Dampa proposal at a meeting with of the NBWL standing committee, BSF officials said international regulations do not allow the construction of a border post and road outside the fence – as per the suggestion of MK Ranjitsinh, a non-official member of the committee. Ranjitsinh wanted the road alignment changed to ensure that the remaining areas of the park, an important tiger habitat, remained unbroken.
The BSF said that the road in Kutch was a strategically important route that would eventually cut down the distance between various border posts from 300 km to 25 km. “The proposal will benefit 10,000 security personnel who are posted in unfenced stretches of the border with Pakistan,” he said at the recent meeting.
Ranjitsinh, Divyabhanusinh Chavda and Asad Rahmani – the non-official members of the committee – said the sanctuary was the only nesting site for flamingos in Asia, and huge traffic movement would have a negative impact on the habitat. They also said that road construction in these areas would restrict the movement of water, and therefore affect the “dependent wildlife”.
The other two projects of strategic importance were mooted for the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. While the Indian Navy wants to construct a structure within the Tillanchang Sanctuary because it is an area of strategic importance, the Coast Guard intends to install a radar system at the Narcondam Island Sanctuary.
Wildlife experts were wary of these proposals because the Tillanchang Sanctuary happens to be the ideal habitat for the nicobar megapode, and Narcondam is the only home for the 300 narcondam hornbills that exist in the world today. They are of the opinion that the projects mooted by defence forces could destroy the fragile ecosystems that support the existence of the endangered creatures.