HYDERABAD: The Roads and Buildings (R&B) Department of the Telangana government has submitted proposals seeking forest and wildlife clearances for the construction of 16 BT roads inside Kawal Tiger Reserve in Kumrambheem-Asifabad district.
These roads, which would require diversion of around 55 hectares of forest land (i.e., each road would need diversion of 2-10 hectares of forest land), are meant to connect various villages in Sirpur (U), Tiryani, Dahegaon, Lingapur, Bejjur, Asifabad, Kowtala and Wankidi mandals.
The R&B Department, in its justification for the project, stated that these villages were not only isolated, but were home to Maoist sympathisers, and that the construction of the new roads would improve transport facilities in the region.
The project received administrative sanction from the Telangana government under the Road Connectivity Plan in Left Wing Extremism affected areas (RCPLWE) — a Central government scheme which falls under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
Proposal draws ire
The construction of roads in areas where tigers are often sighted has caused apprehension among wildlife conservationists.In fact, the R&B Department’s proposals also maintained that these forests played an important role in aiding the movement of tigers from Tadoba Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra and Indravati Tiger Reserve in Chhattisgarh towards Kawal Tiger Reserve. They further stated that the forests were under threat due to growing encroachments, rampant poaching, illegal tree felling and habitat loss.
Apart from the tiger, the forests were home to threatened species like leopard, gaur, sambar, chowsingha, sloth bear, and barking deer, in addition to several species of birds and reptiles, the proposals read.At the same time, in its justification, the R&B Department said that the laying of the roads would not affect the natural habitat of the fauna in the region by way of fragmentation of forest land.
However, conservationists, on the condition of anonymity, said that while laying of roads to improve accessibility to services for residents of isolated villages was essential, the State must follow the recommendations of the 2013 Dr MK Ranjitsinh sub-committee of the MoEF, which had suggested that the construction of roads for the purposes of patrolling or tourism, especially in tiger reserves, must be avoided.
Roads to be laid in LWE-affected areas
The project received administrative sanction from the Telangana government under the Road Connectivity Plan in Left Wing Extremism affected areas (RCPLWE), which is a Central scheme.