Trikuta wildlife sanctuary to be denotified
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has given its conditional approval to a mining project near the famous Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu. It has also agreed to de-notify a wildlife sanctuary near the temple to allow expansion of facilities for visiting pilgrims.
The decision follows the recommendations of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL). In its meeting on October 14, the standing committee of NBWL recommended giving clearance to the proposal of the Jammu and Kashmir Mineral Development Corporation Limited (JMDC) to mine magnesite (magnesium carbonate) from about 18 ha land on the Chipprian Hills near Katra town. The site is owned by the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. A 30,000-tonne-per-annum dead burnt magnesia plant, proposed in the region, has also been approved.
JMDC had signed a memorandum of understanding with the shrine board. A total of 485.30 ha has been leased by the board for mining and setting up the plant. These land parcels are within five kilometres of the Trikuta wildlife sanctuary.
In April this year, NBWL agreed to de-notify the entire sanctuary comprising 3,140 ha following an application by the state forest department and the shrine board. The board said it needed the land for developing facilities for the ever-increasing number of visitors to the shrine. The sanctuary, a home to leopards, gorals and cheer pheasants, was notified in 1981. However, the area has never been in the physical possession of the wildlife department.
A few non-official members of the board had objected to the de-notification of the sanctuary. “This denotification sets a very bad precedent of denotifying entire sanctuaries,” says Prerna Bindra, a conservationist and a non-official member of the board. It was decided by the board that twice or more area than that of the sanctuary will be identified and notified simultaneously as a sanctuary in lieu of the de-notification of the Trikuta sanctuary. Besides, the company will also have to carry out eco-development works through the State Wildlife Department in the buffer zone of the sanctuary at a cost of Rs 25 lakh per annum. A K Singh, chief wildlife warden of state refused to comment on the issue while the officials in Maa Vaishno Devi Shrine Board could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.
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