Thanks to wildlife activists, the ongoing expansion of a 3.5-meter road in Tanigebail range of Bhadra Tiger Reserve, was stopped. Raising objections to the expansion of Lingadahalli-Kemmangundi road to 5.5 meters, wildlife organizations of Chikkamagaluru requested the authorities to take immediate steps to stop the activity.
Now the road is being repaired and not widened which happens to fall within a prime tiger habitat of Karnataka, India. As per Central (MOEF&CC) guidelines and the directions of the Supreme Court, no new road or expansion of existing roads can be taken up within a protected area.
The concrete road which is approximately two kilometre long starts from Lingadahalli and goes on till Kemmangundi. The road is part of the leased area of the Horticulture department but within the Sanctuary and therefore, has to abide by forest and wildlife rules.
This is in fact, Bhadra Tiger Reserve’s boundary D-line to the Kemmangundi Anti-Poaching Camp/gate of Tanigebail Range. According to activists, the road construction work was taken up by the Public Works Department of Tarikere sub division, Chikkamagaluru in the first week of July.
Raising objections to construction activity inside the tiger reserve, DV Girish, Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust, S Girijashankar, State Wildlife Advisory Board Member (Ex) and Shreedev Hulikere, WildCAT-C said, “As per photographic evidence, it was very clear that metalling and usage of stones for road construction had been completed. Also, stones were stocked at the Kemmangundi APC gate for further work. The work was taken up for one week and stopped only after we raised objections.”
D V Girish added, “This is not the first time they are doing it, three years ago they had attempted and we had stopped it. Every time, we have to take up the issue instead of the Bhadra authorities being proactive. In fact, the horticulture department has been developing this area on and off and carried out many renovations works in the leased area. And they took up the work of a concrete road in 2015.”
However, in 2018, the department wanted to upgrade this road but it was stopped, informs Girish. “But this time, it was a clear case of expansion from 3.5 to 5.5 metres for a two-kilometre length. And in fact, they had cleared the area. We objected and wrote to NTCA and other concerned agencies. We have no objections if the existing road is maintained or tarred but not expanded. Now who will follow rules if government organizations like PWD themselves violate?”
STATUTORY APPROVALS NEEDED
Wildlife organizations say in the guise of repairing or strengthening the existing road, expansion and resurfacing of the entire road was taken up sans any permissions from the appropriate authorities. No road development activities shall be undertaken inside a tiger reserve without obtaining statutory approvals under Section 38 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 as per Supreme Court directions.
Meanwhile, Bhadra authorities have told the PWD to carry up only maintenance of the existing road in Tanigebail range. To this, activists reiterate existing guidelines and orders with regard to roads within protected areas clearly does not allow any expansion work.
They stress, “MOEF&CC order dated 22 December, 2014’ states ‘the status quo of the roads passing through National Parks and Core Critical Tiger habitats shall remain the same. The roads can be maintained and repaired in the best manner possible in their current form and present width. No widening or upgradation is to be allowed. If it is an existing tarred road, it shall be maintained as such and no widening of the tarred surface or the widening of the road itself, may be done.”