Monday, 30th October 2017

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Panel frowns on road in Manas

Plan ‘violates’ ministry order on highways

  • Published 31.07.19, 1:33 AM
  • Updated 31.07.19, 1:33 AM
  • 2 mins read
Prime Minister Narendra Modi releases the tiger census report in New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)

A committee constituted by the National Tiger Conservation Authority to review Manas tiger reserve has opposed the Centre’s proposal to construct a road passing along the Indo-Bhutan border, bisecting Manas National Park in Assam and Royal Manas National Park in Bhutan.

The road proposal was mentioned in the management effectiveness evaluation report of the Manas tiger reserve. Prime Minister Narendra Modi released the management effectiveness evaluation reports of tiger reserves in New Delhi on Monday.

“The central government has a proposal to construct a road along the international border with Bhutan, 500 metres inside India. It is also proposed to have a border security post every 4km along the proposed highway. This will break the international corridor of tigers and elephants and will also create a lot of disturbance inside the tiger reserve, which is supposed to be inviolate,” the committee said.

A senior Manas official confirmed that it had opposed the proposal in its meetings with the state government recently and in all forums. “The road going through the middle of the park will harm the park in many ways,” the official said, and added that the road could have been planned along the southern boundary. “Having border outposts along the middle of the park will lead to disturbance as physical infrastructure has to be set up,” the official added.

Sources said the Union ministry of road transport and highways has already asked the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) and Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to avoid making highways through protected areas unless they are unavoidable.

In its May 29 order, the ministry said, “To have minimum impact of highways on the protected eco-sensitive area, the implementing agency should consider sparing these areas at the planning stage and wherever possible taking a bypass/detour even if it is longer.”

On the management weaknesses of the park, the report said the field director was hesitant to take over the responsibility of an additional 350 square km area, which has been added to the park, for want of adequate staff strength. “The area is already a part of the buffer area of the tiger reserve and must be added to the core by notification and taken over under management of the tiger reserve,” the report said.

It said though the management of the reserve was making all efforts to revive it after the Bodo agitation had completely ravaged the park between 1989 and 2003, sporadic incidents of poaching and hunting demoralised them.

“The miscreants had upper hand again between 2009 and 2014 and instances of poaching/hunting came to light. Arms in the custody of the anti-poaching team in Basbari range were snatched by militants in 2014. Earlier many camps were burnt down, forcing staff to flee from locations,” the report said.

The committee also expressed concern on vacancies at the park and a dearth of younger faces among those on protection duty.

“The Assam Forest Protection Force is young but inadequate,” it said.