In a major jolt to Uttarakhand chief minister TS Rawat’s ambitious Kandi Road project that aims to connect Garhwal and Kumaon regions, an affidavit submitted by the central government and other agencies concerned before the National Green tribunal (NGT) has specifically mentioned that core or critical tiger habitat should be kept inviolate for tiger conservation. The affidavit was filed on Monday before the principal bench of the tribunal on a PIL filed by advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal.The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in a joint affidavit, quoted section 38 V (4) (i) of the Wildlife Protection Act which said, “core or critical tiger habitat areas of national parks and sanctuaries, where it has been established, on the basis of scientific and objective criteria, that such areas are required to be kept as inviolate for the purpose of tiger conservation, without affecting the rights of the scheduled tribes or such other forest dwellers, and notified as such by the state government in consultation with an expert committee constitute for the purpose.” The affidavit mentioned that the Supreme Court on November 25, 2005, decided the alignment of the road — nearly 50 km — connecting Kotdwar and Ramnagar. Following this, the Uttarakhand high court in an order dated September 3, 2010, had said no part of the forest use could be permitted without forest clearance. NTCA, in a letter dated July 16, had also questioned the centrally governed body Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) asking their role in engaging National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) for preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the project. In reply to this, WII has mentioned that NBCC has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Institute to carry out “feasibility study pertaining to animal use of existing fair weather road, abundance of wild animals in the area and suggest eco-friendly measures to come up with a green road that will promote both economy as well as environmental conservation.” The affidavit has also rejected engagement of WII’s guidelines on “Eco friendly measures to mitigate impacts of linear infrastructure on wildlife” in core/critical tiger habitats, like Corbett. The guideline suggests various models on the basis of which landscapes could be connected without disturbing wildlife. VB Mathur, director WII, did not comment on the issue. Harak Singh Rawat, state forest minister, said, “WII is currently doing only feasibility study. Let them complete the study first.” The affidavit also said that Corbett, which was notified in 2010, is one of the most important source area for tigers in the entire Terai landscaper as documented during the cycles of the All India Tiger Estimation, an exercise mandated under section 38 O (1) (e) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.