Get all clearances for unavoidable projects through national parks, sanctuaries: Ministry to NHAI, others
The Centre has asked all authorities responsible for road construction to avoid building highways in protected areas, such as national parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways asked National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corp Ltd (NHIDCL) and Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to avoid making highways through such protected areas unless the projects are unavoidable, PTI reported.
“If it is absolutely unavoidable, all necessary clearances required under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Forest Conservation Act 1980 and Environment (Protection) Act 1986 should be obtained before any work is undertaken in such areas,” the news agency reported citing a circular from the ministry.
India's protected areas have increasingly come under pressure from an ever-increasing infrastructure network —161 wild animals were killed in road or train accidents in 2018, DTE reported in its State of India's Environment 2019 (SoE) in Figures.
Linear infrastructures like roads and railways potentially fragment the habitat of wild animals and act as epicentres of fatal accidents for innumerable wild species, small and big, according to the annual e-book.
There have been several instances of construction clearances given without paying heed to the impact it would have on the wildlife there. A panel led by the then environment minister Harsh Vardhan in January 2019 cleared the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed train project to go through Creek Flamingo Wildlife Sanctuary in Thane, Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Mumbai’s Borivali and Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary in Vasai.
In the case of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve too, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests noted that it needed to be protected from the pressure of infrastructure projects. The reserve in Maharashtra's Chandrapur district recorded a 286 per cent jump in revenue in the past five years.
In 2018, a lion died in a road accident, while three died in rail accidents. The same year, 70 leopards lost their lives in road accidents and 11 spotted deer died in road mishaps, according to SoE.
In November last year, Odisha lost its 24th elephant to train accidents in eight years when a female elephant died after being hit by a train near Ramachandrapur village in Keonjhar district on November 21, 2018. Train accidents, poaching and electrocution together caused more than half of elephant deaths (67) in the state between April 1, 2018 and December 18, 2018, showed data released by Wildlife Society of Odisha.
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