PWD work in Kali Tiger Reserve flouts rules

PWD work in Kali Tiger Reserve flouts rules

A picture of work on a bridge in Kumbarwada Range of Kali Tiger Reserve last year.

Flouting guidelines laid down by the Centre, the Public Works Department (PWD) seems to have bulldozed its way through the pristine Western Ghats.

Feigning ignorance of stringent rules framed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), PWD officials have executed as many as 10 projects cutting through the youngest tiger reserve of the state — Kali Tiger Reserve in Dandeli of Uttara Kannada.

In complete disregard to the rules laid down by the National Tiger Conservatory Authority (NTCA) and Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife, the PWD has carried out work on bridges, culverts and roads in various wildlife ranges of the reserve. The PWD provided these shocking details under the Right to Information Act (RTI).

According to rules of the standing committee of NBWL “No widening of existing roads shall be permitted and the status of finishing of the surface of the repaired roads shall remain as that of the original roads, i.e, untarred roads shall remain untarred after repairs, and only originally tarred roads shall be repaired and tarred.” Further, according to 35 (6) of the WLPA 1972, recommendation of the NBWL is essential for any use or diversion of the habitat of any wild animal or produce including water etc in a national park.” The Supreme Court had ordered that for any project requiring environmental clearance and located within the eco-sensitive zone around a wildlife sanctuary, the project proponents have to obtain recommendations of the standing committee of NBWL.

However, according to RTI details, more than 10 projects, especially bridges within the Kali Tiger Reserve have been built without the prior approval from relevant agencies. The hanging bridge across Kali River near Shivpur, culvert at km 47.60 on Ulavi-Diggi-Goa border road, bridge at Ch. 39 on Ulavi-Diggi-Goa border road, construction of new road to Bidoli and Patne villages are some of the major projects worth more than Rs 100 crore executed without approval.

Wildlife activists working around the Kali Tiger Reserve alleged that both the forest department and NTCA officials have failed to stop illegal development work within the protected area. “Senior officials are exerting pressure on lower rung officials like RFOs, Dy RFOs and forest guards and blame them for such violations. The user agencies and contractors have created such a situation that if any RFO, DRFO or guard questions the illegal activities, they are threatened of transfers and deputation. NTCA has also confined itself to just issuing of notices. An independent inquiry committee should be formed to investigate these activities and action be initiated against the forest, PWD officials and contractors,” complained an activist requesting anonymity.

Seeking a clarification on the issue, DH contacted Basavaraj V Patil, the director of Kali Tiger Reserve. Patil said that he has taken charge recently and sought details of the project. However, he assured that he will look into the revelations of the PWD and take suitable action.