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CM: Protect tigers, find alternative site for Human dam

By Badri Chatterjee, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON JAN 24, 2020 11:58 PM IST

Chief minister (CM) Uddhav Thackeray on Friday directed the state irrigation department to ensure that the tiger corridor between Chandrapur and Brahmapuri forest divisions remains protected from a proposed irrigation project near Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR).

During a review meeting chaired by the CM to assess concerns raised by conservationists about the negative impacts of an irrigation project (Human dam) on the tiger habitat in central Maharashtra, the CM directed the irrigation department to identify alternative locations for the dam further upstream and carry out feasibility studies.

Vidarbha Irrigation Development Corporation (VIDC) has been planning to develop a dam near Sirkada village of Sindewahi taluka, Chandrapur proposed on Human river — a tributary of Andhari river — with a storage capacity of 247 million cubic metre. The project seeks to irrigate 46,117 hectares (ha) of agricultural land by submerging 7,651.1 ha, including a tiger corridor. In order to submerge the required area, more 1.5 lakh trees need to be felled while 1,925.55 ha reserved forest from TATR buffer area need to be diverted.

Avinash Surve, VIDC executive director, said, “The CM gave a balanced view that we should strive to protect wildlife, forest habitats while ensuring water is provided for irrigation. We have been told to study all available alternative options 2-3 km away from the existing site. We have identified four other locations, and have asked for two months’ time to submit our revised proposals.”

On January 13, wildlife conservationists, part of a sub-committee under the state wildlife board (SBWL), opposed the project stating that it would ‘spell doom to one of the finest wildlife corridors in the country and would increase human-animal conflict’. According to forest department, there have been 179 cases of human deaths due to conflict with tigers in TATR buffer between 2007 and 2019. A follow-up review of the meeting was taken on Friday.

“The CM made it clear that he had the same position to protect tiger corridors as he had for protecting Aarey forest,” said Kishore Rithe from Satupuda Foundation and SBWL member.

“The CM has taken a balance view to come up with an alternative to make a win-win situation,” said Deepak Apte, director, BNHS and SBWL member.

The project was first proposed 37 years ago (in 1983) at a cost of Rs. 33 crore but construction was stopped within two years after the project violated the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.

CHIEF WILDLIFE WARDEN SPEAKS

“There is no doubt that this is a crucial tiger corridor. In 2016, then chief wildlife warden had given his view that such a project should not be allowed as it threatens fragmented forest patches between protected areas. However, the sub-committee has not finalised its recommendations yet,”

Nitin Kakodkar, chief wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), state forest department

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