Wildlife board declines Uttarakhand forest dept’s request to modify tiger reserve road
After NBWL gave its nod for the construction of Laldhang-Chillarkhal road through the buffer zone of Rajaji Tiger Reserve based on recommendations by NTCA, Uttarakhand forest department wrote to the board in July, requesting modifications like reducing the length of underpass for wild animals and reducing the height of underpass from 8m to 5mUpdated: Oct 20, 2020, 16:08 IST
National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), in its 59th standing committee meeting on October 5, declined the Uttarakhand forest department’s request to modify conditions imposed by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for the road passing through the buffer area of Rajaji Tiger Reserve, an ecologically sensitive area in terms of movement of wildlife.
The minutes of the meeting, which were released on Monday, were accessed by HT.
After NBWL gave its nod for the construction of Laldhang-Chillarkhal road through the buffer zone of Rajaji Tiger Reserve based on recommendations by NTCA, Uttarakhand forest department wrote to the board in July, requesting modifications like reducing the length of underpass for wild animals and reducing the height of underpass from 8m to 5m.
During the meeting, the board sought NTCA’s view on the requests, which declined them as the “area has high density of wildlife.”
The minutes of the meeting state, “The Chief Wildlife Warden, Uttarakhand, has now requested to modify three conditions imposed by the NTCA as follows: Forest Clearance not required since road exists prior to 1980 as per the guidelines of Forest Conservation Act. Reduce the length of underpass for wild animals to 470 m at the rate of 100 m per km instead of 705 m as recommended by NTCA. Reduce the height of underpass for wild animals from 8m to 5m due to geological conditions.”
The NTCA responses stated it would “obtain views of Forest Conservation Division with respect to applicability of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, but did not agree to the request made by the chief wildlife warden for the other two conditions as the area has high density of wildlife.”
Speaking on the issue, JS Suhag, chief wildlife warden, Uttarakhand said that the work on the road will be done according to the recommendations of NTCA.
“We will be building the road as per the norms, following all recommendations of NTCA, but no other state has a cap on the height of underpasses; such a recommendation has been made only for Uttarakhand,” said Suhag.
In January, after going through the recommendations of NTCA regarding the building of underpasses for animals and forest land transfer, NBWL had approved the proposed road. The board had then approved the project based on conditions like, “Permission for starting the work on the project shall be granted by the state government only when road design is modified as per animal passage plan prepared by project proponent in consultation with state chief wildlife warden on the basis of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) guidelines named Eco-friendly Measures to Mitigate Impacts on Linear Infrastructures on Wildlife.”
The NTCA had recommended that as per the guidelines set by WII, “construction of an elevated road (underpass for animals) with substantial clearance for elephants (8m above ground to provide safe passage) needs to be undertaken for the central stretch of 4.7km from Chamaraia bend to Siggadi-sot.”
The recommendations further mentioned that “While planning the elevated road it should be ensured that at least 100m of passage ways per 1km is provided. However, being an elephant dense area, it is suggested to provide one and half time more permeability which entails a permeable space of 705 m.”