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Supreme Court panel flags clearance to road in Rajaji reserve, seeks clarification

The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), the apex agency to clear projects in and around protected areas, had given its approval to Laldhang-Chillarkhal road in its meeting on June 11, with mitigation measures watered down.

Written by Shivnarayan Rajpurohit | New Delhi |
September 24, 2021 3:03:50 am
The height of the passage was also revised down to 6 metres from 8 metres.

A Supreme Court-appointed committee has questioned relaxations given for upgrade of a 4.7-km road in the buffer zone of Rajaji Tiger Reserve and sought replies from the Centre and Uttarakhand government.

The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) asked the state government and ADG (Wildlife) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) why the length of an elevated road for movement of animals was reduced to 400 metres from 1,410 metres — the latter was suggested by an expert committee with members from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

The height of the passage was also revised down to 6 metres from 8 metres.

The state government and MoEFCC have to reply to CEC’s questions within 15 days

“While NTCA has recommended elevated road length of 710M the report later jointly prepared by NTCA & WIl has proposed 1410M elevated road,” according to minutes of a meeting, held on September 16 and attended by CEC members and officials. “The Scientist from WII present in the meeting stated that as per guidelines approved by NBWL, the length of free passage (Permeability) should be minimum of 30% of the total length of the road, which works out to 1410 M.”

“The reasons for NBWL rejecting the recommendation of the joint committee to construct 1410 M long elevated road may please be given,” the minutes, published on September 21, read.

The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), the apex agency to clear projects in and around protected areas, had given its approval to Laldhang-Chillarkhal road in its meeting on June 11, with mitigation measures watered down.

The committee also sought to know why the elevated stretch has been reduced to just 400 metres, when the entire 4.7 km should be elevated as part of mitigation steps.

The panel took exception to the revised width of the under-construction or constructed bridges on the road. “Considering that the road width on the bridges constructed /under construction is kept at 7 M while the road is developed with a width of only 3 M is not understood…” according to the minutes. The NBWL had given clearance for a 3-metre-wide road with 1.5 metres of paved shoulders on either side.

The panel also questioned NBWL for choosing the wrong site for inspection before approval.

The state authorities were asked to explain if forest clearance under the Forest Conservation Act was required for the project.

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