Activists cry foul over State Board for Wildlife nod to roads

3 out of 24 proposals related to widening or upgradation of existing roads fall within core forest area

The recent decisions by the Telangana State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) clearing several proposals for laying or upgrading of BT roads within the protected areas and areas falling within the tiger reserve may have gone against the guidelines laid by Central wildlife authorities.

A total of 24 proposals, all pertaining to BT roads through wildlife areas, were cleared by the Board recently under the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana involving nearly 150 acres of forest land.

Of the total, at least three proposals pertaining to widening or upgradation of the existing roads fall within the core area of the Kawal Tiger Reserve.

Of the remaining, a large number of proposals for laying of fresh BT roads and widening or improvement of the existing ones fall into the buffer and corridor areas of Kawal Tiger Reserve, while a few others pertain to Kinnerasani and Pakhal wildlife sanctuaries.

Wildlife activists are crying foul about clearance of the proposals that go against the guidelines framed by the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL).

A sub-committee was constituted by NBWL eight years ago, with the mandate of framing comprehensive guidelines for construction or repair of roads passing through protected areas in the country.

As per the guidelines, status of the existing roads passing through national parks and core critical tiger habitats should remain the same. The roads could be maintained and repaired in the best manner possible in their current form and width. No widening or upgradation should be allowed.

In case of sanctuaries and conservation reserves, and eco-sensitive zones of national parks and sanctuaries, culverts and metalling in sections of the roads that have become impassable, or ‘all weather roads’ for approach or connectivity to villages within the protected areas can be considered for approval in the standing committee of NBWL. The width and status of the existing roads should remain the same and no upgradation should be allowed, the recommendations say.

When sought clarification, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Forces R. Sobha said that the proposals were not for widening of roads, but only for BT roads in the existing right of way, with specified animal passages, underpasses and wildlife mitigation plans.

The roads are proposed for habitations with more than 250 population in protected areas, about which NBWL standing committee will take a view and if required, send a Central team to decide, she said, and clarified that no tree felling will be permitted.

The agenda copy of the SBWL, however, speaks otherwise. Majority of the proposals therein are for either widening of the existing roads and new roads within protected areas.

“Some roads cutting across the wildlife areas are not even needed, but being developed at the behest of politicians representing the region,” alleged an activist pleading anonymity.

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