NEW DELHI: What could pose a major risk to thriving tiger population in the country, Centre has given a go ahead for diversion of 1100 hectares of land in critical tiger corridor connecting three tiger reserves in Maharashtra, Telangana and Chhattisgarh for the construction of an irrigation project.
This is the third case where Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has allowed diversion of forest land in core tiger habitat.
The latest one being a diversion of forest in Kawal Tiger Reserve in Telangana, Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, and Indravathi Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh for the construction of Pranahita Irrigation Canal.
Earlier, the wildlife board of the Ministry has allowed diversion of 6000 hectares of forest in Panna tiger reserve for country's first river inter-linking project Ken-Betwa and 1000 hectares in Palamu tiger reserves for the construction of North Koel Reserve that would lead to the cutting of 3.44 lakh trees.
Realising the impact the construction of the project can have in tiger habitat, the ministry has directed the project proponent that only the barest minimum number of trees should be fell while executing the work and ensure minimum disturbance to wildlife and the habitat.
"The user agency shall provide drinking water for wild animal by filling up the percolation tanks/check dams and for raising fodder plots all along the length of canal passing through forest areas at locations to be indicated by forest officers concerned," said the wildlife committee of the Ministry.
It further ordered that work shall be carried out from 6 AM to 6 PM only and the material and machinery for carrying out the proposed works shall be kept outside the wildlife sanctuary.
"As and when required machinery should be carried to the site during execution only. No labour camp should be established inside the wildlife sanctuary during the execution of the work.The debris formed due to the execution of the works shall be taken away from the wildlife sanctuary on day to day basis," it added in directions issued to project proponent.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has said that the legal status of the forestland shall remain unchanged and the implementation of the project be in the strict adherence to all the mitigation measures suggested by the ministry.
A total of 18 eco-friendly crossings eco-bridges and cut and cover across the Pranahita Canal have been proposed to avoid fragmentation of the corridor and permit free movement of tigers and other wildlife animals.
"NTCA appointed team has already suggested some modifications in the placement of the proposed structures. Precise locations of these structures should be decided in consultation with local District Forest Officer & Field Director at sites where wildlife crossing is likely to happen the most," said the panel.
The panel has said that chain link fencing should be avoided as much as possible since it is likely to fragment the corridor.