Wildlife experts have started fanning out to various forest sites where development projects are in the works, their quest being for a resolution to an old debate, ecological conservation versus development. Prompted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has set out on a mission it calls “Harmonising biodiversity with development aspirations”.
Their visits on the first phase are to Borail Wildlife Sanctuary at Silchar in Assam, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary at Gwalior, Valley of Flowers at Ghagharia in Uttarakhand and Kutch in Gujarat. At a WII function in Dehradun last week, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Prakash Javadekar stressed a desire to see that environment protection and development go hand in hand
At Silchar, the scientists will assess how much wildlife habitats have been disturbed by the construction of highways. “Our scientists will study problems wild animals face in Borail Wildlife Sanctuary. We will explore ways for constructing highways without disturbing wildlife,” said WII director V B Mathur.
In Gwalior, the concern is a plan to lay a power transmission line across the sanctuary. Mathur said scientists would explore how this can be done without obstructing plans to preserve the endangered great Indian bustard.
Uttarakhand has sought forest and environment clearance for a ropeway project at Ghagharia to make the pilgrimage to Hemkunda Sahib easier. The Valley of Flowers has the status of a world natural heritage site and scientists will assess if the ropeway project will cause any damage to the site, which is also a national park.
Kutch is in need of new roads and the danger is to the flamingo, which arrives in large numbers during migration season. The scientists will assess their movement patterns and then suggest how and when to build the roads.
The WII is set to submit its report to the ministry at a meeting this month of the standing committee of its national board.
About a year ago, the WII had researched the life cycle of Olive Ridley turtles to suggest a drilling schedule for oil companies.