[ Tongam Rina ]
ITANAGAR, Jun 5: On World Environment Day, Chief Minister Pema Khandu tweeted that environmental concerns have been taken into account to minimize adverse ecological impact while making Arunachal’s East-West Industrial Corridor (EWIC) highway a reality.
He tweeted after a meeting on Friday to expedite the work on the proposed construction of the two-lane highway that will serve as an industrial corridor in the foothill areas of the state.
While the chief minister did not elaborate, it is likely that the Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR) has been kept out of the EWIC project. The PTR had been included in the detailed project report (DPR), prompting an uproar in the state and elsewhere in the country.
As reported earlier, the chief minister had responded to the outcry against the proposed road through the park, stating that “Pakke Tiger Reserve is not only home to the tigers but (is) also one of the biodiversity hotspots of the country and home to scores of endangered species.”
On 2 March, responding to a query from this daily, the CM had said that he would take up the issue with the forest department and the executing agency.
Khandu had said that he asked the PWD commissioner to review the road project and brief him, “so that early strategy can be worked out.”
In the DPR which was presented to the high-powered committee on the road project in February, Ahmedabad (Gujarat)-based consultancy firm, Nektor Engineers & Project Consultants (NEPC) had proposed an elevated corridor that would pass through the 40 km stretch from Seijosa to Bhalukpong, through the heart of the PTR.
The consultants gave three options for the road: via Pakke-Kessang, Seppa and Nechiphu; via Pakke-Kessang and Nechiphu; and through the PTR.
The forest department was not consulted by the NEPC before the finalization of the DPR, which was prepared using satellite imageries.
Responding to a query from this daily, the NEPC had said that it used satellite imageries for finalization of the DPR after the forest department had turned down the request to let them inside the park.
The Nameri Tiger Reserve in Assam shares its boundary with the PTR along the southern side. The parks are designated as critical tiger habitats.
PTR DFO Tana Tapi had in a letter to the highway department’s chief engineer in July 2018 suggested that an alternative route be taken up instead laying one through the PTR, citing the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) and the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972.
The objection raised by the DFO has been noted in the DPR by the consultant.
Under the FCA, any kind of survey, investigation and exploration is not permitted to be carried out inside national parks and wildlife sanctuaries by any agency. Even the forest department is not permitted to demarcate sample plots without obtaining prior approval of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) and the Supreme Court.
Under the WPA, no alteration in the boundary of a tiger reserve shall be made, except on recommendation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the approval of the NBWL.
The elevated corridor through the PTR is estimated to cost Rs 2550 crore.
The 692.70 km long industrial corridor would run along the foothills on the boundaries of Arunachal and Assam (Phase-I), from Pasighat to Bhairabkund (539 kms), and from Kanubari to Manmao (153.70 kms) in Phase-II.
[ Tongam Rina ]