BENGALURU: The State Highway 50 development project Stage-3, between Soraba in Shivamogga district and Bhatkal in Uttara Kannada district, has begun, allegedly without clearances from the Centre. This despite the highway passing through pristine forests that are a habitat of the endangered lion-tailed macaques.
On their part, the state forest department has made it clear that the project can’t take off without the clearance of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and because it poses danger to the habitats of tigers, lion-tailed macaques and other species. Further, a survey has to be done to assess damage to the environment, they say.
At present, Karnataka Public Works, Ports & Inland Water, Road Transport Department has taken up work on culverts, raising an alarm among wildlife activists. Launched at a cost of Rs 26 crore, the project aims to develop select segments between Bhatkal and Soraba (SH-50) from 26.5km to 85.1km milestones.
Activists say the work should be stopped as it will impact arboreal species which need massive canopies. An activist says, “This is a road in good condition with hardly any traffic. The work has been taken up as an election gimmick due to political pressure and that too without central clearances.”
D V Girish, Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust, explains, “If allowed, the project will destroy dense forests as the road passes through the Sharavathi Valley Wildlife Sanctuary. This section passes though 30km of dense forests. The most worrying factor is that between Kugar and Nagavalli on an 18km stretch, there are large groups of endangered lion-tailed macaques.” G Veeresh, a wildlife activist, adds, “This project will completely destroy the habitat of macaques and other species. Habitat loss and fragmentation have already affected this species. They cross the road through tree branches and if trees on the roadside are cleared, the species will become extinct as it has happened in other areas.”
Speaking to Express, Shivamogga Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Shivashankar says they haven’t been approached for clearances nor have they granted any permission. He adds, “At present, they are replacing the culverts. However, if they cross the side drains, we won’t allow them to continue the work as it is forest area.” The present work entails widening the road by one metre each on either side of the road, adds Shivashankar. The road, at present, is 5.5m wide.
“This project requires clearances from the National Board of Wildlife and the Ministry of Environment and Forests. We have told them clearly that without permission, work cannot continue. Even if they do not reveal the project details, we will go by the rule of law and take action. This region has a rich biodiversity and if this road is widened and the traffic volume increases in the next five years, it will have serious consequences on wildlife and its habitat,” he said.