HYDERABAD: While neighbouring Maharastra proudly advertises increase in its tiger population, Telangana’s Amrabad tiger reserve will soon be part of uranium survey and exploration.
The standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife(NBWL) in its 41st meeting held recently, gave clearance to conduct uranium survey and exploration in over 83 sqkm in Amrabad tiger reserve, home to around 18 tigers. The other tiger reserve in the state Kawal tiger reserve has hardly any tiger population to boast about.
Amrabad tiger reserve is spread over Amrabad and Udimilla in former Mahbubnagar district (currently Nagarkurnool district) and Narayanpur in Nalgonda district.
The NBWL has maintained that the move is important “considering the strategic importance of uranium for a developing country.’’
When contacted, principal chief conservator of forests(PCCF), Telangana forest department, PK Jha said, “Only survey would be carried out in the designated area of Amrabad tiger reserve. These tests will not harm the environment.” However, minutes of NBWL meeting mentions that clearance has been given for ‘survey and exploration’ by Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research, South Central Region, Telangana.
Wildlife activist Diya Banerjee, who had earlier challenged Telangana forest department’s controversial decision to cull wild boars in the state said, “The biggest concern is that if the uranium survey turns out to be successful what will happen after that ? Will the area be denotified to allow uranium mining ? This question needs to be answered by the government,” she said.
Uranium exploration in the tiger reserve has been a contentious issue for quite some time with tribals and environmentalists protesting against it.
Clearance for road widening in wildlife sanctuaries in the State
The meeting gave clearance to two other projects including road widening inside wildlife sanctuaries in the State. It may be recalled that a sub-committee of ministry of environment and forests in 2013 headed by the then member of NBWL, Dr MK Ranjitsinh had recommended that roads should not be widened in wildlife sanctuaries and should be at best just repaired.
The projects cleared by the NBWL include widening of a 13.8-km road between Nakerrekal and Mallampally on NH-365 that passes through Pakhal Wildlife Sanctuary. It requires diversion of around 51 acres of forest, involving chopping down of 5,000 trees. The NBWL said that widening should be done with adequate standard safe passages in the form of over-bridges and under-bridges for movement of wild animals.
Other clearance is for widening of road passing through Mahavir Harina Vanasthali National Park in Hyderabad requiring diversion of 7 acres of forest. Telangna PCCF Jha said, “There is already a road passing through the national park which has fencing on both sides. The widening will not affect the national park.” Apart from these proposals, NBWL has also cleared proposals for widening of roads through three other protected areas in other states of the country.