Close on the heels of the Maoist encounter at Sukma district in Chattisgarh, killing 25 CRPF personnel on April 24, the superintendent of police, Kaimur, has written to the Bihar police headquarters, requesting that the 55 km road, falling under the Kaimur wildlife sanctuary, be made concrete.
The National Board of Wildlife had in 2015 rejected a similar proposal of the state government, but cleared construction of unmetalled road on the 55 km Adhaura-Akbarpur road between Maoist-infested Kaimur and Rohtas districts of Bihar. The security forces, however, contend that a kutcha (unmetalled) road would not help their cause, as it allowed the Maoists to plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs), making them sitting ducks.
In the last 16 years, at least 30 policemen, forest and government officials have lost their lives in Maoist landmine blasts on this stretch.
Expressing safety concerns, Kaimur SP Harpreet Kaur wrote to inspector general of police (operations), Bihar, Kundan Krishnan, on April 28, requesting him to take up the issue of construction of a pucca (metalled) road - bitumen black top or plain cement concrete (PCC) - on the Adhaura-Akbarpur stretch, for safety of security personnel.
Six companies (one company comprises around 90 personnel) of CRPF are engaged in anti-Naxal operation in the area.
Dittoing the SP’s concern, inspector general, CRPF, Bihar sector, MS Bhatia, told HT: “Construction of metalled road is a matter of life and death for paramilitary security forces. It is easy to plant landmines on kutcha roads even if they are of compressed stone chips (Wet Mix Macadum in technical parlance). Such basic infrastructure and logistics must be addressed on a priority basis, otherwise it adversely affects the morale of security forces, working in difficult areas and adverse situation.”
Wildlife custodians, however, beg to differ.
“As per wildlife guidelines metalled (bituminous black top or PCC) road cannot be constructed in a sanctuary,” divisional forest officer (DFO), Kaimur, Satyajeet Kumar said.
Defending the wildlife guidelines, Bihar additional principal chief conservator of forest, US Jha, said, “Man and animal should not come in conflict. A wildlife sanctuary is for the fauna. Man should not try to encroach upon animal territory.”
He said construction of metalled road in sanctuary had several demerits to wildlife. “First, movement of machinery will disturb the fauna in the region. Secondly, construction of metalled road will lead to pollution.Besides, increased human activity and fast movement of vehicles will put animals at risk.”
Construction of the 55 km long Adhaura-Akbarpur road, using Wet Mix Macadum, began in October 2016, with a completion deadline of March 31, 2018. So far, 17 km has been made in Kaimur while construction of another 38 km remains in Rohtas.
The forest department had in 1972 constructed a kutcha road between Adhaura and Akbarpur for wildlife patrolling, but the road became non-existent due to lack of maintenance over the years. Even as the forest department has taken up road construction work last year, it is not to the liking of security personnel who are pitching for a metalled road, to minimise the possibility of Maoist landmine blasts.
Of the 38 districts in Bihar, Kaimur and Rohtas are among 22 affected by Left wing extremism.
The Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary is the biggest sanctuary in Bihar, covering 980 square kilometre area, and is home to several wildlife species, including deer, bear, blue bull, sambhar, ape and tiger.