Javdekar approves NH17 widening passing through Karnala bird santuary

4 June 2015

The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), on Tuesday, cleared widening of the section of NH-17 passing through Karnala bird sanctuary near Panvel. The NBWL is headed by Prakash Javadekar, minister of environment, forests and climate change (MOEF&CC).

Currently, the NH-17 has only two lanes passing through the bird sanctuary and it falls on the 84-km Panvel-Indapur stretch. Mr.Javdekar said "We cleared the project in yesterday's meeting and have allowed for increasing the road to four lanes. While approving the project, we have asked the state government to add part of adjacent forest land in the sanctuary and also carry out compensatory afforestation,".

The Karnala bird sanctuary, established in 1971, lies 60 kms south-west of Mumbai and is home to 190 species of birds and almost 30-40 species of migratory birds which visit the sanctuary during winters. The sanctuary is also home to the four-horned antelope, wild boar, jungle cat, Indian fox and the endangered leopard.

The proposal for widening the NH17 from existing two lanes to four lanes has been pending for the past five years. NBWL rejected it for the first time in 2009 and later in 2013 too. The project was approved by State Board for Wildlife in 2014 and once again came to the NBWL for approval. In 2009, the NBWL rejected it on the grounds that the sanctuary area, 12.11 sq.kms, was not too big but was home to rich biodiversity.

When the project was taken up for appraisal last August, the NBWL said alternate routes were not feasible. This year the committee with members nominated by NDA government, changed their stand, by saying the road would be beneficial for the wildlife. Chairman of the committee, Mr.Javdekar said "Widening of the road will smoothen traffic and reduce foul emissions from recurring traffic jams."

The Highway will be widened on a two-km stretch which will lead to afforestation of close to two hectares of the sanctuary. The existing two-lanes of the NH-17 already pose threats to the conservation of this sanctuary in the form of traffic, pollution, littering of solid waste and illegal resorts.

Widening it to 4 lanes will expedite the destruction process surely .