Tiger expert to look into impact of NHAI plan on wildlife
New Delhi, Oct 05: The Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has appointed a tiger expert to look into the alleged adverse impact of proposed expansion of roads by National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh.
Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), has been roped in to look into the matter.
“Yes, I have been co-opted as a member by the CEC to survey the said tiger reserve. I will soon give the report after surveying if vehicular-traffic due to the proposed expansion will have any impact or not on the wildlife in the region,” Gopal told media.
The Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) had moved the CEC seeking a ban on NHAI’s plan to upgrade National Highway 7 to 4/6 lane on the periphery of Pench Mowgli Sanctuary of Pench Tiger Reserve in Seoni district.
The organisation alleged that the project would take toll on wildlife, thus reversing the efforts undertaken to save the big cats and ecosphere in the region.
Advocate Ritwick Dutta appearing for WTI in his petition submitted that forest of South Seoni and Nagpur Forest Divisions in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra respectively forms very important corridors for wildlife from Kanha to Pench sprawling over 16,000 squire km area with good tiger population.
“It is extremely ecologically sensitive as to maintain the genetic diversity of the highly endangered species like Tigers and Gaur,” the petition says alleging that widening of the road connecting Nagpur to Jabalpur will create lot of disturbance and fragmentation in the area.
It may lead to the permanent change in the movement pattern and behaviour of the animals, he said and sought the authorities concerned to be restrained from further road construction in the area.
There have been at least 91 road hit cases from 1996-2005 in which Tiger, Chinkara, spotted deer, barking deer and black buck have died, Dutta said.
Further expansion of the road will result into increased speeding vehicles at the cost of wildlife, said Ashok Kumar, a wildlife expert from WTI.
“We have also sought court’s direction to the authorities concerned to opt the proposed alternate road alignment or any other road alignment which poses minimum threat to the wildlife corridor linking Kanha National Park and Pench Tiger Reserve.
“In fact, not only animals but also humans will be in danger due to accidents involving speeding vehicles,” he noted.
The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has already turned down the proposal of the National Highway Authority of India to expand the road for “smooth and quick movement of vehicles”.