Vijay Pinjarkar, Times News Network, 11 February 2019
Even as the principal bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) at Delhi has taken a serious note about road upgradation projects in ecosensitive zone (ESZ) of Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) cutting corridors, road expansion in crucial patches continues unabated sans any mitigation measures.
Sequel to TOI report on road projects cutting TATR corridors, the NGT has already sought a report by February 28. The next date of hearing is slated for March 28. However, road expansion by PWD continues despite NGT orders.
The PWD is widening roads in dense forest patches between Chandrapur-Pombhurna through Junona-Asegaon-Gilbili-Satara-Kelzar-Dongarhaldi villages, where traffic is thin. These roads pass through tiger bearing FDCM’s West Chanda, Chandrapur and Central Chanda forest divisions and connect Kanhargaon. PWD executive engineer MM Jaiswal did not respond to TOI calls.
Of the above road patches, Junona-Asegaon-Gibili have been expanded without any mitigation measures. Now, Asegaon-Satara road is being expanded. The most crucial patch between Satara-Kelzar, which passes through inviolate forest area and was never expanded in last 30 years, is also being upgraded.
“This expansion will affect last remaining unbreakable linkages between TATR-Kanhargaon. Besides, the upgraded roads will be mostly used by sand mafia who operate through this road,” feared wildlife lover Nikhil Tambekar, who monitors road kills in Chandrapur.
Chandrapur chief conservator of forests (CCF) SV Ramarao said, “The above roads are not included in the six projects, which are being surveyed by separate committees headed by assistant conservators (ACFs), PWD officials and NGOs, to suggest mitigation measures as per NGT direction.”
“During a meeting on January 25, we had asked the PWD about the number of road projects coming up in TATR landscape but the road expansion between crucial
Pombhurna-Dongarhaldi-Kelzar were not part of it. We talked about six projects only where mitigation will be proposed. These include Bampewada-Chimur, Chandrapur-Mul, Chandrapur-Ashti, Navargaon-Ashti, Chimur-Warora, and Gadchiroli-Mul,” said Ramarao.
“TATR is itself not enough to sustain the growing tiger population. Hence, corridors are important. A great part of these corridors lie outside Tadoba and such small roads should not be expanded for securing survival of key tiger populations and the ecosystem,” said Debi Goenka, executive director of Conservation Action Trust (CAT), Mumbai.
Green Planet Society chief Suresh Chopne demanded to include dense forest patches between Pombhurna-Dongarhaldi in the mitigation plan. “There is recorded scientific evidence of tigers dispersing from Tadoba to Kanhargaon and further from these jungle areas,” said Chopne.
The NTCA, on November 28, 2018, had asked chief wildlife wardens to assert Section 38 (O) (1) (b) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which says, “Evaluate and assess various aspects of sustainable ecology and disallow any ecologically unsustainable use such as mining, industry and other projects within the tiger reserve.”
Secondly, the NTCA said, section 38 (O) (1) (g) of the WPA asks to ensure that tiger reserves and areas linking one protected area or tiger reserve with another protected area or tiger reserve are not diverted for ecologically unsustainable uses, except in public interest, and with the approval of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) and on the advice of the NTCA. “The chief wildlife warden should stress on these laws to save corridors,” said Chopne.
Prakash Kamde of Social Action for Rural Development (SARD) said, “Widening taluka level roads can be understood but internal roads where there are small villages and no traffic should be just repaired and not expanded.”