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Perennial debate: wildlife versus defence

delhi Updated: Jul 18, 2012 17:17 IST
Chetan Chauhan
Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Development of projects for strategic importance for India has hit the wildlife roadblock.

Wildlife activists had raised a red flag over four key defence related projects saying it endangers India’s fragile bird population prompting the Defence Ministry to ask the Supreme Court to exempt defence projects from mandatory environment approval process.

Only one of the five projects examined by the standing committee of National Board for Wildlife was approved at a recent meeting with five strict conditions. The others were not cleared considering the adverse impact these projects could have on the local wildlife.

The Border Security Force, who wanted approval for a road through Dampa tiger reserve in Mizoram and construction of a road through Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, made a strong pitch for these proposals.

On the Dampa proposal, the BSF officials said that as per international regulations it was not possible to locate the border post and the road outside the fence as suggested by a non-official member of the committee MK Ranjitsinh. He wanted the change in road’s alignment to ensure that the remaining areas of the park – an important tiger habitat --- remained unbroken.

With regard to road in Kutch, the BSF said the road was strategically important and will eventually cut down the distance between different border posts from about 300 kms to 25 kms. “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.

The non-official members of the committee Sinh, Divyabhanusinh Chavda and Asad Rahmani 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 the construction of the road in these areas would restrict the movement of water, and therefore, the associated dependant wildlife.

The other two projects of strategic importance were in Andaman and Nicrobar islands. The Indian Navy wants to construct a structure within Tillanchang sanctuary as there is no fishing or shipping activity, and, hence, an area of strategic importance. And, the Indian Coastal Guards want to have a radar system installed on Narcondam Island Sanctuary.

Wildlife experts were wary of the proposals as Tillanchang sanctuary is best habitat for Nicobar Megapode and Narcondam is the only home for just 300 remaining hornbills. They felt that these projects destroy fragile ecosystems for the beautiful birds.