Bus service through Corbett? Tiger conservation body seeks factual status report

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DEHRADUN: National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on Wednesday asked Uttarakhand to submit a ‘factual status report’ about plying bus service through the Pakhro-Morghatti-Kalagarh-Ramnagar route (Kandi Road stretch) which passes through the core breeding area of Corbett Tiger Reserve and its buffer zone.

The letter from Rajendra G Garawad, deputy inspector general of NTCA, to Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttarakhand dated December 23, 2020, said, “It is requested that a factual status report of the aforementioned subject may please be provided to this Authority at the earliest.”

Earlier, activists had sent a letter to the Union environment ministry, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) seeking urgent intervention in the matter.

The letter was sent by Bhanu Bansal, director of Centre for Wildlife and Environmental Litigation Foundation in which he said that the stretch in which the permission to ply the bus service is given includes 24km of buffer zone between Ramnagar and Kaharagate, 21 km core breeding area and 32 km buffer zone of the CTR between Kalagarh and Pakhro.

He also added that this permission is a violation of wildlife laws including Section 38(V)(4)(i) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 which says that there should be no interference in the core areas to ensure tiger conservation.

Citing that the government of India is one of the signatories of the St Petersburg Declaration, 2010 which clearly prohibits any intrusive activity within core tiger breeding areas, Bansal added that plying the bus service will prove harmful for the conservation of wildlife.

On December 18, the chief wildlife warden of Uttarakhand had ordered the director of the CTR to provide permission to Garhwal Motors Union Limited to ply a bus service on the route.

The move is aimed at cutting downtime as well as the distance between the Kumaon and Garhwal divisions of the hill state.

Commenting on the issue, JS Suhag, Chief Wildlife Warden, Uttarakhand said, “The permission is within the ambit of norms and there are no violations. No one will be allowed to get down the vehicle in the said stretch.”

Previously, the Supreme Court had stayed the construction of Kandi Road due to a violation of wildlife norms.

Interestingly, the tiger status report of India titled ‘Status of Tigers Co-predators and Prey in India’, released by the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change minister in July this year on the eve of Global Tiger Day underlining the concerns for the corridors warned that these (corridors) are further threatened by the proposed Kandi road that will connect Kotdwar to Ramnagar through parts of CTR.

“Many tiger populations are confined within small ‘Protected Areas’ and some have habitat corridors that permit tiger movement between them.  However, most of the corridor habitats in India are not protected areas and are degrading due to unsustainable human use and developmental projects,” the report said.

The report further added that restoring the connectivity in the foothills and less hilly tracts are crucial for elephant movement that is currently almost curtailed and leads to conflict.

The report also asserted that resorts and private landowners around the CTR need to be sensitized to remove fences that are impermeable to wildlife at critical points to permit passage through their property.

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