The Uttarakhand government is considering denotifying the Shivalik Elephant Reserve. The matter, officials said, will be raised before the state Wildlife Advisory Board for discussion in its next meeting.
If the board gives an in-principle approval, a detailed proposal will be taken up and the matter communicated to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF).
A senior forest department official told The Indian Express, “The state wildlife board will discuss this. That area will remain a reserve forest even after denotification as an elephant reserve. It will not make any big difference.” The official said an elephant reserve has “no legal sanctity”.
The official said the Shivalik Elephant Reserve, spread over 5,000 sq km, was notified in 2002,
Another official said an elephant reserve is unlike a tiger reserve where there are certain restrictions and provision of punishment for violating them. “Certain formalities of obtaining clearances for development work will get reduced after denotification,” the official said.
The official denied this matter has any connection with the expansion of the Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun.
The MoEF last month asked the Uttarakhand government to consider avoiding sensitive areas of Shivalik Elephant Reserve while exploring land for the expansion of the airport. The forest conservation division of MoEF has made the observation in response to a state government proposal for diversion of 87 hectare of forest land for the project.
In a letter to the state Forest Department, MoEF said, “…The entire proposed forest area for diversion falls within the Shivalik Elephant Reserve and elephant corridors within its 1 km radius. Moreover, the notified Kansora-Barkot Elephant Corridor is located within 5 km radius. The state government should consider avoiding these sensitive areas and explore alternative lands.”
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