Central Zoo Authority seeks report from over illegal felling in Corbett
The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has issued notice to the chief wildlife warden of Uttarakhand on allegations of illegal cutting of thousands of trees in the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Kalagarh division for the Pakhrau Tiger Safari.
The development follows legal notice sent by Gaurav Kumar Bansal, wildlife activist and advocate of Supreme Court, in which, he urged the CZA and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to withdraw their “approval” for the establishment of the tiger safari in Gujjar Sot, Pakhrau Block, Sonanadi Range, Kalagarh Division in Corbett Tiger Reserve.
Bansal said in his notice he has stated that the Forest Advisory Committee of the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change had recommended the proposal only after the written assurance from Uttarakhand forest officials that only 163 will be felled for the setting up of the tiger safari. “However, in contrast to its undertaking, forest department officials have uprooted nearly 10,000 trees in the area,” he said.
Sonali Gosh, Deputy Inspector General of Forests at Central Zoo Authority in her September 17 letter to the principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) and chief wildlife warden Uttarakhand asked them to verify facts and submit their response for further necessary action.
Bansal said even the director of CTR has sought a report from divisional forest officer Kalagarh on the illegal felling of trees for setting up the Tiger Safari.
The legal notice states that “grievance which applicant wishes to highlight is that illegal felling of trees in the name of establishment of Pakhrau Tiger Safari and that too within Corbett Tiger Reserve, which is one of the best and oldest National Parks in the country, is not only against the statutory approvals granted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority, Central Zoo Authority and Forest Advisory Committee but also contempt of the order dated 09/04/2001 issued by Supreme Court of India in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 47 of 1998 titled as ‘Navin M Raheja Vs. Union of INDIA and Others’ wherein the apex court expressly observed that no tree whatsoever shall be felled in the Corbett Tiger Reserve by the State or anyone else”.
When contacted, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) Rajiv Bhartari said he had directed PPCF wildlife JS Suhag to give a status report on the allegations based on which the response will be sent to CZA.
Rahul (who goes by his first name), director CTR, rubbished the allegations that 10,000 trees have been cut for the safari project. “Prima facie there are no irregularities in the construction of the tiger safari. We have all the required permissions. But still, I have sought a status report from DFO Kalagarh in the matter. This tiger safari project was conceived during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Corbett in February 2019,” he said.
According to the minutes of the meeting of the forest advisory committee (FAC) held on September 21, 2020, the proposal for seeking prior approval of the Central government under Section 2 of Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for non-forestry use of 106.16 hectares of forest land Compartment No. 3 and 8 of Kalagarh Tiger Reserve Division of Pakhro Range, Pakhro Block of Pauri Garhwal district for the establishment of Tiger Safari was discussed in the meeting.
The FAC recommended the proposal on certain conditions that all conditions in the statutory approvals obtained from NTCA and CZA would comply and the state government would ensure the infrastructure of the tiger safari is created mainly from bamboo and other natural materials.
The minutes stated that statutory approvals from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) have been obtained for the proposal, compensatory afforestation has been proposed over 16 hectares of non-forest land which is equal to 15 per cent of the forest land proposed for diversion. The minutes also noted that as the construction activity over 4000 square metres is carried out under the project, the proposal does not require environment clearance and consequent wildlife clearance from the standing committee of the National Board for Wild Life.