The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has directed the private firm that prepared the detailed project report for an upgrade of NH 748AA, which passes through wildlife-protected areas in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Goa, to get wildlife and forest diversion clearances.
The Rs 229-crore project to be implemented under the Bharatmala Pariyojana programme involves two-laning of the national highway that links north Goa with Karnataka through Belagavi. On the basis of the report prepared by Louis Berger, the NHAI awarded the work to Gurugram-based NSC Projects on March 16.
The project passes through larger protected-area networks such as the Kali Tiger Reserve, Dandeli Sanctuary (Castlerock area), Bhimgad Sanctuary, Mollem National Park, Mhadei Sanctuary, Tillari Conservation Reserve, Chandgad Conservation Reserve, Radhanagari Sanctuary and the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve besides reserve forests spread across Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra.
After wildlife conservationist Giridhar Kulkarni filed a representation before the National Tiger Conservation Authority on July 13 highlighting the project’s consequences on wildlife, the authority in August directed the NHAI to seek wildlife clearance from the National Board of Wildlife. The work was scheduled to start in June.
In Karnataka, the project comes under the jurisdiction of the Belagavi territorial forest division.
In a letter to Louis Berger dated November 28, a copy of which is with indianexpress.com, NHAI project director Bhuvanesh Kumar wrote, “Based on the DPR prepared by your office, NHAl has awarded the civil work of the project to M/s NSC Project Pvt, Ltd. New Delhi. A number of trees are falling within the construction zone and this office had requested DCF (Deputy Conservator of Forest) Belagavi and DCF Ponda for according tree cutting permission for taking up the works. While no response has been received from DCF Ponda, DCF Belagavi has insisted [we] apply for forest diversion for any works to be taken up beyond 5.5 m for blacktopping the road.”
After a meeting with Karnataka forest officials, the NHAI was on November 14 asked to get forest diversion clearance.