Stop the road cutting through the Rajaji Tiger Reserve.

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We should not allow this. 

The National Wildlife Board has granted permission to the government to build a road that cuts through Uttarakhand’s Tiger Reserve. The road work was put on hold by the Supreme Court last year, and the state government was ordered to get the clearance of the National Wildlife Board and the National Tiger Conservation Authority. The Tiger authority asked the Wildlife Institute of India for a recommendation and the WII recommended no road be built because of the animals crossing there. Oddly the wildlife board has ignored that recommendation and given permission. The road will cut through the Rajaji Tiger reserve and the corridor between Corbett park and Rajaji.

The road, proposed to cut down travel time between Garhwal and Kumaon, will cut through the reserve forest area of Rajaji Tiger Reserve (RTR) which has a healthy wildlife population. The 11.5-km-long road also includes a 4.5 km stretch from Chamaria Bend to Siggadi Sot — which is the sole wildlife corridor between Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) and RTR, which are the two premier sanctuaries of Uttarakhand.

In June last year, the project had been put on hold by the Supreme Court which had directed the state government to first get clearance from National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and NBWL before commencing with the motor road project.

Subsequently, the NTCA asked Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to submit its observations on the project. Scientists at the Tiger Cell of WII recommended a “status quo” on the stretch between Chamaria Bend and Siggadi Sot. WII recommendations, a copy of which is with TOI, read, “Status quo should be maintained on the stretch between Chamaria Bend and Sigaddi Sot. Black topping should be avoided in this route considering wildlife movement in the area. However, the forest department may maintain this portion regularly by using ‘murram’ so as to allow passage of vehicles.”

Notwithstanding WII suggestions, NTCA approved the project stating that a 100-metre-long underpass can be constructed after every one kilometre road on the stretch. After NTCA’s approval, NBWL also gave a green light to the project and extended the limit for the length of underpass from 100 metres to 150 metres after every kilometre. So, the total length of the underpasses on the Laldhang-Chillarkhal road would now be a mere 705 metres which wildlife experts say will be too less for smooth movement of animals. Notably, a forest department committee headed by current WII director Dhananjai Mohan in 2014, had suggested that the construction of a 7.5 km-long flyover should take place in a phase-wise manner so that movement of animals is not obstructed.