Forest dept permits PWD to conduct survey for EWIC road through Pakke Tiger Reserve

[Tongam Rina]

ITANAGAR, 10 Jun: The environment & forests department has given permission to the PWD highway department “for survey and investigation within the Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR) for preparation of detailed project report (DPR) of proposed East-West Industrial Corridor (EWIC) road.”

In the permission letter issued on 10 April this year to the highway superintending engineer, the forest department stated that “permission is granted to carry out non-invasive survey in PTR and no damage to flora and fauna shall be caused under any circumstances during the survey and the entire process shall be carried out under the supervision of the PTR DFO.”

The highway department had written to the forest department on 8 March, seeking permission for surveying the Seijosa to Bhalukpong portion of Package 2 (b), which is 39.84 kms long.

The 692.70 km EWIC road is proposed to connect the state’s foothill districts without passing through Assam.

This daily was not able to get information from the PWD regarding the agency that is preparing the DPR, or if it’s being made afresh.

The earlier DPR had been prepared by Ahmedabad (Gujarat)-based consultancy firm Nektor Engineers & Project Consultants (NEPC), which had proposed an elevated corridor through the 40 km stretch from Seijosa to Bhalukpong, through the heart of the PTR, drawing flak from conservationists.

The consultant had given 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.

As controversy erupted and there were demands that Pakke be left alone, Chief Minister Pema Khandu had said in March last year that Pakke would be protected.

“The 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,” he had said.

Khandu had said that he had asked the PWD commissioner to review the road project and brief him, “so that early strategy can be worked out.”

A year later, in March this year, the chief minister said that the Arunachal government would take up construction of the EWIC road with the union government, and that the department is examining the elevated corridor proposal, but that the MoRTH would take a final call.

The road project, which was conceived in 1990 and would pass through East Siang, Lower Siang, Kamle, Papum Pare, East Kameng and West Kameng districts, offers no land compensation.

The Centre is likely to fund the project, but the state will have to do all the ground work, including forest clearance, land acquisition and techno-economic feasibility study, and preparing the detailed project report.