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Green zone project rush

New Delhi, Aug. 11: The standing committee of the national wildlife board is considering clearing more than 100 projects spread across 80 ecologically sensitive areas over the next two days.

According to environment ministry sources, more than half the projects, including one in Bengal, are in “protected areas” like wildlife sanctuaries and tiger reserves. The rest are within 10km of such ecologically sensitive zones.

The decision to consider clearing the projects was taken today at the first meeting of the national wildlife board constituted by the Narendra Modi government. The board, under the environment ministry, has nine members, majority of whom are from various departments and government-supported institutions.

Earlier, the wildlife committee comprised members of non-government organisations. Although the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972 allows inclusion of 15 members from NGOs or independent sources, the current board has only three such members, among them two from Gujarat.

The list of projects to be considered includes oil exploration, thermal power, highways, power lines, mining and irrigation. The board will also consider the Teesta-IV Dam and power generation in Sikkim, projects which had been opposed by the earlier committee.

According to notes circulated during the meeting today, the list of projects has in it widening of the NH31A from Sevoke to Gangtok through the 7.68km forestland of the Mahananda wildlife sanctuary in Darjeeling district.

Sources said the projects were spread across wildlife habitats in the country, most of them in Rajasthan, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.