Allow part of Rajaji Tiger Reserve to be used for Mahakumbh 2021: Uttarakhand to Centre
The Centre earlier turned down the request; environmental groups also have opposed the proposal saying the move will adversely impact the reserve’s flora and fauna.Updated: Oct 21, 2020, 16:13 IST
Uttarakhand has again requested the Centre to allow it to use a part of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve to build temporary camps, parking facilities, police posts, health centres and help desks for the 2021 Mahakumbh in Haridwar. The Centre earlier turned down the request. Environmental groups have opposed the proposal saying the move will adversely impact the reserve’s flora and fauna.
“We have requested the Central government again to allow us to use the land after it was declined. We are in talks with officials and also finding alternative land for constructing the temporary structures,” said Uttarakhand’s principal secretary (forests) Anand Bardhan.
The Mahakumbh, which is held after every 12 years, is scheduled in Haridwar between January and April. Around 50 million pilgrims attended the last Mahakumbh. The number of pilgrims is likely to be restricted for the 2021 Maha Kumbh in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Uttarakhand’s chief conservator of forests D J K Sharma said the Centre did not consider the proposal on technical grounds. “As per norms, reserved forest land can be diverted for non-forest activities for 15 days, but given the situation of Mahakumbh, we sought special permission from the Central government which has been turned down.” Sharma said if such land is needed for more time, it is normal to seek either a conversion or a transfer which the state is unwilling to do. “The state government does not want to divert the entire forest area for Mahakumbh as the constructions will be temporary in nature. Another reason is that if the land is transferred, then it can be misused for other purposes in future.”
The state government wrote to the Centre in April seeking the use of 778 hectares of land from the reserve for non-forestry purposes from September to May next year.
Environmentalist Ajay Singh Rawat said even temporary structures can have a permanent impact, especially on the movement of animals. “Animals require spaces to move. If they [the government] start using the area, then the animals will enter Dehradun and also further increase conflict. Animals are used to moving in particular directions. Even if a temporary structure is made, it can disturb their behaviour. ...what is the guarantee that these temporary structures will not turn into permanent structures as has happened in Uttarakhand earlier?” said Rawat.
The reserve is home to 23 species of mammals, including 38 tigers, and over 300 species of birds.