DESPITE A survey team from the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, concluding that the construction of six irrigation dams within Kalesar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary will damage local flora and fauna, the State Board for Wildlife (SBW), Haryana, has approved their construction. The dams were proposed by Haryana’s Irrigation and Water Resources Department at a cost of Rs 125 crore, and were cleared last month by the SBW, which is headed by CM Manohar Lal Khattar.
Earlier, the WII had concluded that almost 90,000 small plants and around 1 lakh fully grown trees will be chopped off for the construction of the six dams. The WII had also said in its report that the construction will affect the behavioural pattern of the wild animals and destroy their core habitat and breeding areas.
The dams are proposed to be constructed on the seasonal rivulets — Ambwali, Nagli, Darpur, Khelawala — passing through the forest area. The dams will come up in the area of almost 275 hectares. Kalesar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary, comprising around 26,000 acres, is situated in district Yamunanagar sharing boundaries with Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Kalesar forest area is full of wild animals protected under Schedule-1 and Schedule-2 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Leopards, wild boars, civet, jungle cats, porcupines are in abundance here. Even elephants from the nearby Rajaji National Park, Uttarakhand, travel through this forest area.
Sources said, “As the dams are to be constructed within a forest national park, the consent of the National Board for Wildlife, which is chaired by the Prime Minister, is necessary. Groundwork is being completed for sending a detailed proposal about the six dams to the NBW.”
Haryana’s Irrigation and Water Resources Department had mooted the proposal of six dams, including three big-sized structures, for tackling the problem of low water level and providing water for the irrigation purpose in certain parts of district Yamunanagar.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Haryana, Alok Verma, said, “We reviewed the plan of construction of dams in depth after receiving the survey report of WII, Dehradun. We have made many changes. As per our estimate, around 75,000 small plants and equal fully grown trees will need to be chopped for the dams’ construction. The number calculated by the WII was very high. We will construct special corridors for the safe passage of wild animals on the both the sides of dams. The proposal will be sent to NBW, Delhi, for final approval shortly. The dams will be constructed by the Haryana Forest Department. There are already small dams in the Kalesar forest but these are only meant for wild animals.” Verma is also a member of SBW.
Interestingly, Haryana Irrigation Department has diverted around 275 hectares of its land at Masani Barrage in district Rewari to the state Forest Department against the total forest land to be used for construction of these dams.
R S Mittal, Superintendent Engineer (SE), Yamunanagar, Irrigation Department, said, “We have already diverted the land to the state Forest Department. We were asked to submit a few documents for sending the proposal to NBW in Delhi. We have submitted those documents. There is no human population in and around the locations identified for construction of dams. There are also no interstate boundary issues.”
However, Shaminder Boparai, a forester and tiger conservationist active near Dudhwa National Park, said, “Nobody can compensate the loss of forest cover with allotting land somewhere else from the original place. The construction of dams, roads etc for humans by diverting the land of wild animals is going on for a long time in our country. Yamunanagar is already an industrial hub. There is already a huge adverse impact of this on the forest area. Indeed, there must be a need for dams for irrigation, but it is our collective duty to give equal priority to the need of animals, who cannot explain their feelings to us.”