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Weeks after the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) approved the Laldhang-Chillarkhal road passing through the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, a member of the standing committee of NBWL has written to the chairperson of the committee asking that this be reviewed because “certain important information was not available to the standing committee at the time of the meeting.”

The standing committee of NBWL, on February 4, 2020, recommended the proposal for building the road through the buffer zone of Rajaji Tiger Reserve, an ecologically sensitive area, with certain conditions.

The Uttarakhand State Wildlife Advisory Board approved the proposal for this project in its 13th meeting on August 31, 2019 and decided that it would be forwarded to NBWL, which is required to clear such projects.

The member, who asked not to be named, in the letter dated February 8, stated that the issue was discussed in the 56th Standing Committee meeting as a special agenda item at the very end of the meeting and was not listed in the original agenda. HT has seen a copy of the letter, which was shared by an associate of the member on the condition that the latter’s name would not be mentioned.

The letter stated, “From the fact sheets made available through distribution, there was no mention of the fact that this existing road proposed to be strengthened passes through a stretch of forest which constitutes the only natural link for movement of wildlife (including tiger and elephant) between Rajaji National Park and Corbett National Park which are the cornerstones of protected wildlife habitat along the Terai arc landscape in the state of Uttarakhand. The site inspection report of the Wildlife Institute of India was not made available to the members of the Standing Committee at the meeting.”

Quoting recommendation made by WII, the member said that if these are followed by the Uttarakhand forest department then there would be “no need to construct an expensive flyover along a certain stretch of this road.”

The conditions imposed for clearing the project are likely to be reconsidered at the next NBWL Standing Committee meeting.

Meanwhile, green activists from a Delhi-based NGO, Centre for Wildlife and Environmental Litigation Foundation, alleged that it was disturbing that complete facts were not presented to the committee.

Bhanu Bansal, director of the Foundation, said, “NBWL cleared the project without taking into consideration various government reports. This shows that wildlife and environment are not the priority for authorities. The issue requires reconsideration as the area is a very sensitive wildlife corridor. The union environment ministry should look into the matter and must request the NBWL to reconsider its decision.”

Earlier this month, after going through the recommendations of the National Tiger Conservation Authority of constructing underpasses for animals and forest land transfer for Laldhang-Chillarkhal road passing through the Rajaji Tiger Reserve, NBW approved the proposed road.