RAIPUR:IN a decision that has raised eyebrows, the Chhattisgarh government has approved construction of 621 houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Gramin (PMAY-G) in Achanakmar Tiger Reserve for residents of 19 villages in the protected area. This is despite the fact that the tribal inhabitants of the villages are to be shifted to other locations in future as they are now living in the core and buffer zones of the reserve.
The Chhattisgarh High Court on January 15 served a notice to the state government on the matter and sought a reply within two weeks.“How will the construction of houses at the same location where the 19 villages exist inside the tiger reserve serve any purpose? The contentious decision is ironical, since sooner or later these villages would be relocated outside the reserve. That amounts to sheer wastage of public money”, stated wildlife enthusiast Nitin Singhvi, who had moved the High Court questioning the state government’s plan.
Around 160 km from Raipur, in the northwest of Chhattisgarh, Achanakmar wildlife sanctuary was established in 1975 and declared a tiger reserve under Project Tiger in 2009. Consequently, 25 villages of Gonds and Baigas are to be relocated. Six villages were shifted in 2013. Recently, funds were sanctioned by the Centre to relocate three of the remaining 19 villages.
For any tourism-related activity or construction work inside the reserve, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has to be informed and its consent obtained.“Last week we received a complaint on construction of PMAY-G in the tiger reserve and asked the authorities to look into it. No approval was sought from us, and nor were we informed about any such plan”, a senior NTCA official not authorised to speak to the media revealed to The New Indian Express.