the Supreme Court (sc) gave the green light to construct a road through a wildlife sanctuary near Uttarakhand's border with Nepal and China on March 16, 2007. This comes after the Uttarakhand government, and Union ministries of defence and environment and forests agreed to the recommendations put forward by the sc-appointed Central Empowered Committee (cec).
In its July 2005 report, cec had recommended the construction of the strategically important 75 km-Ghatiabagarh-Lipulekh road through Uttarakhand's Askot Musk Deer Wildlife Sanctuary in Pithoragarh district, for which the defence ministry had been lobbying for a long time.
The army had sought permission in April 2005 from the court for construction of the road, which involves clearing 105 hectares (ha) of forest cover in the sanctuary. In its report, cec put forward two course of action. Either the army could pay the net present value (npv) of the forest, which is 5 per cent of the total project cost (around Rs 25 crores) or it could hand over a 62 ha-forestland, currently used for dumping ammunitions in Raiwala cantonment near Rajaji National Park, to the state forest department. In the latter case, npv charges would be waived and the army will be given an alternative site of about 40 ha to dump ammunition in the Lalpani-Bibliwal forest block of the state at a rate fixed by the state. cec preferred the latter option saying it mutually benefited the army as well as the state forest department.
There are, however, fears that private industrial groups might ask for diversion of forestland under such deals. But others favour the land transfer. "National security is a priority. Moreover, shifting of ammunition dump will help create an elephant corridor in the Rajaji," says Sanjay Upadhyay of Noida-based Enviro-Legal Defence Firm, a legal consultancy firm.
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