Guwahati, Aug. 30: The Delhi-based National Tiger Conservation Authority — the apex body for tiger conservation in the country — today asked the Assam forest department for a status report on the road-widening project on Balipara-Bhalukpong which cuts into the buffer area of the Nameri tiger reserve.
The tiger organisation was reacting to a report, Road work threat to wildlife, published in The Telegraph on August 21.
The member secretary of the tiger conservation authority, Rajesh Gopal, said a letter has been sent to the Assam forest department asking for information about the status of the project.
We have received information in this office regarding a road-widening project in the buffer area of Nameri tiger reserve. It has been stated that the said area forms part of the Sonitpur elephant reserve and work is on without the mandatory clearance from the ministry of environment and forests, Gopal said in his letter to the Assam forest department.
He said the forest department has replied that since today was a holiday in Assam, the information would be sent tomorrow.
Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, former member of the standing committee of the National Board of Wildlife and a member of Project Elephant Steering Committee, said: What is important is to follow the procedure as mandated by existing laws with regards to forest clearance. The Forest Conservation Act 1980 clearly mentions that the state should get prior approval from the ministry of environment and forests if forestland is required to be used for non-forestry purpose.
Further, the area falls within the Sonitpur elephant reserve and also Nameri tiger reserve, stressing the fact that the area is of high importance for wildlife conservation. The ministry of environment and forests may kindly investigate the matter with the state government to uphold the sanctity of existing laws with regard to wildlife conservation, Talukdar told The Telegraph.
Anwaruddin Choudhury, honorary chief executive of Rhino Foundation for Nature in Northeast India, said the proposed road should be of minimum width.
The park authorities should ensure this as otherwise movement of animals would be affected. The National Tiger Conservation Authority has also constituted a committee to examine proposals of infrastructure development and other industries on projects falling in the buffer/corridor areas of tiger reserves.
A source said the pressure on the forest department was immense from defence authorities to clear road projects such as this one, as they are of strategic importance.
The Balipara-Bhalukpong road is being widened for movement of heavy armoured vehicles to the Sino-Indian border in the wake of reported security threat.