DEHRADUN: A committee formed by National Tiger Conservation Authority to investigate allegations of illegal construction in Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) in Uttarakhand has found that in order to allow illegal construction and buildings in the protected sanctuary, state forest department officials forged the government records and violated the laws.
"The entire ongoing construction activities in one of the highest density tiger habitat of the world without any competent sanctions and by violating the various statutory provisions/court orders is an excellent example of both administrative and managerial failure. Appropriate actions are reqyired against all the forest officers responsible for such grave violations, " stated the NTCA committee report dated October 22, 2021
The NTCA committee has also recommended initiating action against state forest officials including vigilance inquiry.
U'khand: Forest officials forged documents, violated laws for illegal construction in Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), says Nantional Tiger Conservation Authority formed committee! @NewIndianXpress @TheMornStandard pic.twitter.com/1BwfSqoUrE— Vineet Upadhyay (@VineetTNIE) October 23, 2021
The committee was formed by the NTCA after Gaurav Kumar Bansal, Supreme Court advocate and wildlife activist, conservationist filed a petition alleging illegal construction and violation of laws.
The findings of the committee include alarming points such as illegal construction of the road and bridges is of such nature that it can meet the requirement of single lane highway.
The report stating that frontline field worker is under tremendous pressure to allow illegal construction said that the illegal construction has been supervised by high level officers like divisional forest officer (DFO) of Kalagarh area.
Further adding that the illegal construction in the CTR is going on without any approval and financial sanctions the report states that instead of building cottages inside the CTR the forest officers allowed illegal construction of buildings.
Mentioning the construction work on Kandi road, Morghatti raod, Pakhrau forest rest house (FRH) and water body near the Pakhrau FRH the report revealed that no statutory approval/sanctions were obtained.
Furthermore adding that large amount of earth material was stacked by damaging the tiger habitat in the CTR all this work is in violation of Forest Conservation Act 1980, Wildlife Protection Act 1972, India Forest Act 1927.
The report by the NTCA apart from penal action and vigilance inquiry also recommends demolition of all illegal constructions, eco-restoration with immediate effect along with recovery of the cost from the 'concerned officials'.
The committee has also recommended remote sensing by Forest Survey of India and National Remote Sensing Center to determine the felling of accurate number of trees in the protected sanctuary as allegations state felling of thousands of tree against the claims of hundreds by the state forest officials.
On August 12, 2021, the NTCA issued notice to the chief wildlife warden of the state asking to submit factual status report in the matter after a legal notice was sent by Bansal to the NTCA pertaining the issue.
Bansal in his notice dates August 11, 2021 to the member secretary of the NTCA in which he has also attached the pictures alleged that all the material needed for the said construction except cement is being sourced from the Corbett National Park – Uttarakhand itself "resulting into illegal mining of the natural resources and the same is causing irreparable & irreversible loss and damage to the rich biological diversity of the Corbett landscape".
The notice stated illegal construction of bridges, walls in the tiger reserve which shall not only disturb whole ecology of the reserve but is also against the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act.
The notice further added, "That said illegal construction of BRIDGES and WALL by way of felling the trees and shrubs within the Corbett Tiger Reserve by Uttarakhand Forest Department is nothing but unsustainable use of Corbett Landscape which is not only capable of damaging the ecology of the Tiger Reserve but shall also cause harm to the pristine biological diversity of the Corbett National Park."
The alleged construction of four bridges and 'high wall' is within Kalagarh and Pakhro area of the reserve near Kalagarh Forest Rest House.
On August 23, 2021 the Delhi High Court also directed NTCA to take action in respect of illegal construction of bridges and walls within critical tiger habitat within the CTR as expeditiously as possible and practicable.