NTCA sets strict mitigation measures for road widening 

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Jan 2019 13:02:42


By Roshan Chachane


National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has set rigorous mitigation recommendations to alleviate adverse effects of the widening of the Chilphi-Rengakhar-Salhewara road, a project posing disastrous consequences for the highly sensitive bio-diverse Bhoramdeo Wildlife Sanctuary.

The NTCA team consisting of Additional Inspector General (AIG) NTCA Nagpur, Kamdi Hemant Bhaskar and Wildlife Institute of India Dr K Ramesh Scientist-E and assigned with the task to find mitigation measures. The team conducted site appraisal on April 21, 2018, and submitted a report on June 4, 2018.

Following recommendations are given based on the observations based on General rules for maintaining habitat connectivity across the landscape of the guidelines on Eco-friendly measures to lessen the impacts of linear infrastructure on wildlife.

The recommendations are as following: For connectivity across 1-kilometre species corridor, entire corridor should be elevated. For connectivity across 1-2 km species corridor, two 750 meters underpasses either as one structure or two 300 meters each depending upon the terrain & other condition.

For connectivity across 3 km species corridor or across the forest landscape to divided by either a new road or upgrading of existing road, 300 meter underpasses are suggested at every km of the road and for smaller species such as amphibians and reptiles, small pipes & culverts or bridges at every 100 metre stretch of the road.

The total length of these underpasses is estimated to be around 8.350 km throughout the Bhoramdev Sanctuary and Reserve Forests. NTCA has strongly recommended not cutting down any tree. All the trees shall be transplanted with adequate care for maximisation of survival. User agency shall bear the cost of operation till the establishment of the transplanted trees. Notably, there are around 2700 trees needed to be transplanted for the widening.

The length of road through this wildlife sanctuary is 14.01 km (covering 19-320 hectares land) and 12.05 km through reserve forest (covering 16.867 hectares land), of which 10 km passes through periphery/eco-sensitive zone.

Forest Department had earmarked a budget of Rs 137 crores for the 60.811 km road widening on a flat surface, which is now expected to escalate exponentially in order to implement the recommended mitigation measures. Some experts are of the opinion that the budget may jack up to thrice or quadruple folds even if you take conservative estimates just for the construction of infrastructure.But then, infrastructure is just one aspect, another crucial part is the diversion of forest land. As per recommendation, user agency has been directed to acquire and hand over an area

equal to diverted land to the forest department to be annexed to the sanctuary. Selection of the land shall be done with suggestion from Forest Department from the villages within sanctuary and preferably strip of a private land along the road, proposed underpasses and at critical locations, where such private lands are reducing the width of the forest patches, thereby acting as potential risk to reduce functional efficacy of proposed underpasses for movement of wildlife. This land acquisition will require more funds.

User agency, which is the Chhattisgarh Road Development Corporation Limited, shall be required to keep a lump sum amount of Rs 25 crores as corpus with Forest Department to meet the recurring cost and unforeseen expenditure.

Security measures such as gantry gates highlighting entry and exit to the sanctuary shall be installed. Three barriers cum patrolling camps shall be built as per suggestions of the Department. The patrolling vehicles shall be provided to the Bhoramdeo Wildlife Sanctuary. CCTV based monitoring at crucial spots. Early warning animal crossing boards shall be put up along the stretches with no underpasses.

Coming as a blessing in disguise for the forests, NTCA has set elaborated mitigation measures for the safety of wildlife and preservation of the fragile eco-system of the sanctuary, making the project not just technically challenging but also economically almost infeasible. It was a pet project of BJP Government, but with the Congress winning the election, hopes of environmentalists have rekindled that the new Government would for once and forever cancel the project for the sake of wild animals and environment.