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Thread: Highway widening to affect tiger population in Central India

  1. #1
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    Default Highway widening to affect tiger population in Central India

    Highway widening to affect tiger population in Central India
    Feb 17, 2015

    Among all the projects going through forests, highways seem to be the single biggest threat to tiger corridors in the Central Indian landscape, home to some 688 tigers or one-fifth of population in the wild.

    The National Highways Authority India (NHAI), by ignoring mitigation measures for wildlife has consistently failed to adhere to the principles of 'Smart Green Infrastructure' advocated by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Global Tiger Initiative (GTI) and the World Bank (WB). In Vidarbha, two widened highways - NH6 & NH7 - alone have destroyed at least six tiger corridors. It includes Nagzira-Navegaon, Kanha-Indravati, Bor-Melghat on NH6 and Tadoba-Kawal, Tadoba-Bor, and Tadoba-Tipeshwar on NH7.

    More is expected between Mansar and Khawasa near Pench, where wildlife mitigation measures as recommended by the WII, have been ignored by the NHAI. "If this is the case in Maharashtra, what will happen across the country," ask wildlife experts. According to documents procured by TOI, in an attempt to solve the imbroglio of proposed expansion of NH7 & NH6, the then director of WII PR Sinha had invited NHAI officials at a meeting on June 13, 2012, in the NTCA to discuss mitigation measures.

    The WII director had requested NHAI to come with maps of all highways. WII was to help overlay NHAI maps on all corridors in the country in an effort to work out mitigation measures and clear bottlenecks in road traffic. But NHAI officials were not keen on mitigation measures citing lack of funds as the reason.

    Incidentally, NHAI had also attended a meeting on 'Smart Green Infrastructure' organized by the GTI and WII on August 13 & 14, 2012, in Delhi on similar issues. According to informed sources, NHAI officials did not even bother to attend the meeting till the end and walked out just after tea. A copy of the report accessed by TOI does not even mention NHAI as the list of attendees as they walked out halfway. "If NHAI officials were bothered about clearing up the bottlenecks, they would have made some efforts to attend these meetings and pro-actively solve the problems of highways versus corridors instead of letting them be bogged down in litigation," said a former WII official.

    "If the WII and NTCA are being so pro-active, why isn't NHAI being sincere about wildlife concerns," asked experts.

    Without giving heed to mitigation measures suggested by WII, way was paved for widening of the Mansar-Khawasa stretch. Union minister Nitin Gadkari reportedly pushed through the proposal at a meeting held in Pune last Friday. Prakash Javadekar, union minister of environment and forests and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis attended the crucial meeting. The high court will hear the matter on February 18.

    NTCA estimates that a tiger population of 80-100 (with 20-25 females of breeding age) is required to be genetically viable on its own. Not a single tiger population in the Central Indian landscape is genetically viable in the long run by itself. Therefore, immigration and emigration of adult tigers from other sub-populations within the landscape is a must. The long term survival of tigers is highly dependent on the connectivity of tiger source populations through a network of corridors.

    There are just three viable populations that meet NTCA's criteria across the country. They are Corbett, Nagarahole-Bandipur-Wayanad and Kaziranga. Tiger experts say the phenomenal growth in tiger numbers in India is partially responsible due to such large viable populations. Uttarakhand and Karnataka have registered growth of over 100 tigers each due to the population of Corbett and Nagarahole-Bandipur. Whereas, fragmented corridors being the major reason, Maharashtra has not fared well despite having highest number of protected areas (PAs) in the country.

    Experts said that both Tadoba and Pench have the potential to help revive other smaller and thus unviable tiger populations in Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Chhattisgarh. Because of NHAI's reluctance to take systematic mitigation measures, tiger population in these five states is threatened.

    "Why are the authorities not considering alternative alignment through Chhindwara that causes less damage to the tiger corridors? It has been advocated by a group of experts in the Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court," they stressed. Also, for 'Smart Green Infrastructure', avoidance is the first principle. If damage can be avoided by adopting alternative alignment, why is NHAI insisting on the current alignment and that too with inadequate mitigation measures, they asked.
    Regards,
    Mrudul Godbole

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    The threat perception is genuine. A lot will depend on how the final land acquisition bill takes shape and its implementation.
    I have read in one newspaper that at present only 5 out of 47 Tiger Reserves in India meet the broad parameters (para 8 above) for long term genetic viability of tigers. These are:


    1. Corbett
    2. Sundarbans (India-Bangladesh)
    3. Bandipur-Nagarhole-Mudumalai landscape
    4. Kaziranga
    5. Kanha

    Other Tiger Reserves need connectivity through corridors with near ones (inter-state in most cases) on an urgent footing. Keeping this in view we expect that the State Governments will notify the T.Rs already cleared by NTCA as early as possible. Centre and States have to join hands in expediting protective steps for restoration, maintenance and improvement of corridors. Time is precious and all concerned have to act fast.

    Recently in one case Hon'ble Court has intervened and asked the State why a particular tiger habitat has not yet been declared as a Tiger Reserve even after final approval accorded by NTCA.

    Let us hope for the best.

    Kind regards,
    SaktiWild

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    Clearance given to the widening of NH7 by NBWL standing committee

    Environment minister Prakash Javdekar gave the clearance for four laning a near 40 kms stretch from Mansar to Khawasa of the NH 7 passing through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor. Permission for night drilling is also given near the Golai elephant reserve.

    "While NHAI initially resisted the strong mitigation measures that had to be recommended in view of the nature of the project- it is right through a protected area- several meetings later they have agreed. On WII recommendations, NHAI has agreed to construct another three flyovers of some 3.5 kms or so to ensure that tiger movement corridors are not disturbed by the expanded highway. Since this involved considerable cost escalation for the project- a near Rs 100 crore, this was proving to be a sticky point. We are glad that a first of its kind model in ecological considerations could be agreed to here for a road project passing in a PA", a member of the Standing Committee of the NBWL commented on condition of anonymity.

    Conservationists have raised question like "If MoEFCC was insisting all along no NBWL approval was needed, why did NBWL approve it today? Why did WII-NTCA reduce the length of underpasses from 5.5km in May 2012 report to 1km in January 2015 and to 750 metres in May 2015. "What scientific rationale does the WII offer for reducing the length? How will this benefit wildlife? Has this been done under pressure," they asked. Also if the 1 km proposed by the APCCF (wildlife) committee was bare minimum, as submitted in their report, why has it been further reduced to 750 metres, they questioned.

    NBWL APPROVAL WAS REQUIRED AS -

    * The Wildlife Protection Act Sec 38 (O) G specifically requires that for corridors that link two tiger reserves with each other it is essential to take the approval from the NBWL

    * SC in its order on March 14, 2011, while rejecting application filed by NHAI for expansion of highway had specifically stated that proposal should be considered by the NBWL in accordance with the WPA 1972

    * NHAI had earlier submitted a proposal for diversion of 112.62ha forest land. Later, it was directed to move a fresh proposal for diversion of forest land and seek approval of NBWL

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    We should be ashamed of, as a society and as a country, to what we are allowing to happen to mother nature and it's creatures. We are damn concerned about our religion, caste, region, economic status, social status what not. Millions of tweets flow out of this country on daily basis on every damn topic under sun. Have we seen a single tear or drop of sweat being shed by the so-called common man or great middle class man for forests or wildlife.

    We are getting and we will be getting what we deserve going by our actions, The sad part is, it will be our future generations who will bear the maximum burnt.

    Every rule was sidestepped or turned on it's head for this clearance. This was a dread looming large and becoming real day by day and it happened today. Repeat of subversion of Western Ghat Eco-sensitive status.

    May God not forgive us for our sins.

    Thanks for sharing.

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