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Wildlife Board approves felling of 3.4 lakh trees in Palamau tiger reserve

The diversion of forest land for North Koel Reservoir would involve the felling of 3,44,644 trees, that will be compensated by planting the same number of trees elsewhere.

environment Updated: Aug 04, 2017 16:15 IST
Palamau,North Koel Reservoir,National Wildlife Board of India
Palamau Tiger Reserve is Jharkhand’s only tiger reserve and the area that will be diverted for the North Koel Reservoir is considered prime tiger habitat.(HT File photo)

The Environment ministry approved diversion of 1000 hectare of forest land for the construction of the North Koel Reservoir in the Palamau Tiger Reserve, Jharkhand’s only tiger reserve.

The diversion would involve the felling of 3,44,644 trees, that will be compensated by planting the same number of trees elsewhere.

The Minutes of the Meeting of the National Board for Wildlife that HT reviewed state that “after completion of the project, the tiger may lose substantial resource rich habitat. “ The plan is to incorporate adjoining wasteland owned by the government into the tiger reserve and it should be developed as tiger habitat.

“These are all mitigation measures, you are destroying a tiger habitat and then compensating in some other places,” Tito Joseph, at the Wildlife Protection Society of India, said.

The Palamau tiger reserve is one of the first tiger reserves in the country. Though Jharkhand is richly forested the portion of its land that is protected is way below the national average.

The North Koel Karo project was first proposed in the 1960s and work commenced in the 1970s. The project was estimated to cost R. 1622 crore and provide irrigation to 1 lakh hectare of farm land in Daltonganj and Palamu regions of Jharkhand and some districts of Bihar.

The environmental losses are estimated to be R. 51065 lakh, according to a ministry of water resources report, while the benefits are calculated to be R. 1221515 lakh. There is likely to be a tenfold increase in the net value of produce before and after irrigation, that will be possible because of the project. However, in its justification for the project the primary reason cited is that since 90% of the work was completed and R. 800 crore had already been spent the forest clearance should be provided.

When the project was mooted the provisions for obtaining forest clearances did not exist, because the Forest Conservation Act was promulgated in 1980. In 2007, after pouring R. 800 crore the project was shelved for lack of proper clearances from the environment ministry and the submergence of forest areas in the tiger reserve. Earlier this year the Jharkhand state government decided to revive the project.

The push for clearances for stalled projects has come from the Prime Minister’s office, according to sources within the ministry.

The government recently also approved the Ken- Betwa river linking project, India’s first river linking project, that threatens to submerge about 30% of the Panna Tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh. Data shared by the environment ministry in the monsoon session of parliament also showed that the ministry rejected only 7% of the proposals for forest land diversion.

First Published: Aug 04, 2017 16:15 IST