Mizoram govt instructs DFOs to visit NHIDCL construction sites

Aizawl, May 30 (PTI) The Mizoram government on Monday instructed five Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) to visit construction sites where the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited is currently undertaking widening or expansion of National Highways across the state in the wake of a silent protest launched by well known Mizo social activist over alleged environmental violations by NHIDCL.

The NHIDCL is currently executing widening works of four national highways – NH-09 (Seling- Zokhawthar), NH-102B (Keifang-Manipur), NH-302 (Lunglei-Tlabung) and NH-54 (Aizawl-Tuipang) in Mizoram.

Mizoram principal chief conservator of forest Jitendra Kumar told PTI that the divisional forest officers of Aizawl, Lunglei, Thenzawl, Tlabung and Champhai were instructed to conduct site verification within their respective jurisdiction to ascertain if there are violations of the Mizoram (Forest) Act, 1955 and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 by NHIDCL.

In case there is any violation, works might be stopped immediately as per provisions of the relevant act or rules, he said.

Kumar said that the DFOs were asked to submit their findings effectively by Tuesday.

He said that the state government is keen on protecting the environment and making green forests.The government is also keen on working with the NGOs and other stakeholders to protect the environment, he said.

Earlier on May 25, the Mizoram Environment, Forest and Climate Change Department had served a show cause notice to the NHIDCL to give explanations over the alleged environmental damage within a week, he said.

The company is yet to respond, he added.

On May 27, well known Mizo social activist, Vanramchhuangi alias Ruafela Nu launched her indefinite silent sit-in protest in front of the state Environment, Forest and Climate Change Department’s office in Aizawl in protest against the alleged environmental violations by NHIDCL.

The social activist also demanded a stay order on widening works of the four National Highways being undertaken by the NHIDCL.

The 62-year-old activist, however, suspended her indefinite strike on Monday after an assurance from the state government that immediate action would be taken over the matter.

“I have suspended my silent protest after the principal chief conservator of forest assured me of immediate action against the environmental violations by NHIDCL. I will closely look into the matter and necessary measures would be taken if there is no positive result,” she told PTI.

Ruafela Nu alleged that rivers and forest lands are being destroyed indiscriminately due to the construction or widening of National Highways across Mizoram over the past three years.

However, an official of the Environment, Forest and Climate Change department told PTI that environmental clearance is not required in connection with widening of existing national highways, which are shorter than 100 km.

He said that the national highways, the widening work of which are currently undertaken by the NHIDCL in Mizoram are shorter than 100 km.