Don't send projects without wildlife board clearance

Don't send projects without wildlife board clearance

In its zeal to push through infrastructure projects cutting through the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats, without obtaining clearances from the Karnataka State Wildlife Board, the state government on Wednesday was rapped by the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF).

Determined to implement the controversial Hubballi-Ankola Railway project by obtaining post facto approval, the state government had cleared the project in hurry and submitted to the MoEF for approval.

The committee, which met last week, had not only sent the project back to the state but prompted the NBWL to rebuke Karnataka’s stand on such projects that spell disaster for the environment. In its letter, dated 26 September, to the NBWL, a copy of which is with DH, the MoEF said that, of late, many states have been sending projects directly to the Centre without bringing to the notice of the state wildlife board.

With Karnataka also submitting a project that requires diversion of whopping 595.64 hectares of forest land, the ministry pursued the matter seriously and hit out strongly against Karnataka.

Dr H S Singh, a member of the NBWL Committee, keeping in mind Karnataka’s act of directly clearing the project that destroys the forest, stated that more often the state governments are sending the proposals for consideration of the standing committee of NBWL without the recommendations of the SBWL. “This tendency needs to be curbed,” Dr Singh reportedly suggested during the meeting.

In fact, the Deputy Inspector General of Forests, National Tiger Conservatory Authority, stated that the Site Inspection Committee has not recommended the proposed rail line on the grounds that it passes through the Western Ghats, which is a biodiversity hotspot. He had also pointed out to the MoEF that the SBWL was yet to furnish their recommendations.

The committee, following Karnataka’s gaffe, apprised MoEF to send an advisory to all the state governments that they should not submit any proposal for consideration of the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife and shall be treated as pending at the state level.