ON THE day the Supreme Court slammed the Uttarakhand government for misleading it on the construction of a section of the Haridwar-Ramnagar Kandi road through the Rajaji tiger reserve, the state’s Forest Minister handed over a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to clear the road that also passes through the Corbett reserve.
Stating that the construction of Kandi road through Corbett and Rajaji tiger reserves was stopped by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Minister Dr Harak Singh Rawat said that he sought the Prime Minister’s help in the letter handed over at the Tiger Day function in Delhi Monday.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Rawat said: “I submitted the letter to Modi ji at the Tiger Day function in Delhi yesterday. For the Rajaji segment, we will seek clearances as submitted before the NGT. For Corbett, we will build the road along the reserve boundary on Uttar Pradesh land as far as possible. We can also elevate certain stretches. For all these issues including inter-state matters, we need the Prime Minister’s help.”
In the Supreme Court Monday, as the state counsel pleaded that the government would seek forest and wildlife clearances from the Environment Ministry for the road, the bench asked the state to withdraw the work order.
Stretches of the old Kandi road between Haridwar and Ramnagar run through the core of Corbett and the buffer of Rajaji tiger reserve. Construction of a highway along the old path has been an emotive issue in Uttarakhand as this will cut travelling distances and also skip detours through Uttar Pradesh. It was a major plank for the BJP in the 2017 Assembly polls.
On March 11, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered the state government to follow an alternative alignment which avoided cutting through core areas of the Corbett tiger reserve and was approved by the Supreme Court in 2005.
In 2005, the Centre and Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh governments had agreed to the alternative alignment for a road between Kotdwar and Ramnagar under the supervision of the Supreme Court, rather than a highway through Corbett.
In 2010, the High Court of Uttarakhand had also made it “absolutely clear that we do not permit any part of the forest to be used” while dismissing a PIL for the same road.
Last year, the Uttarakhand government signed an MoU with National Buildings Construction Company (NBCC) and Wildlife Institute of India (WII) for the construction of the road through Corbett.
The state also started work on widening the 11-km Laldhang-Chillarkhal segment through the Rajaji reserve without obtaining statutory clearances. On June 21, 2019, the Supreme Court stayed the work.