1,800 hectare wildlife habitat diverted for infra projects in 2020: Report

Express News Service
NEW DELHI: As the entire country was under lockdown last year, the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (SC-NBWL) allowed for diversion of 1,792.51 hectares of wildlife habitat in protected areas, including de-notification of protected areas in wildlife sanctuary, tiger reserves and national parks for infrastructure projects and rejected none of the proposals, said an analysis.

Analysis of wildlife clearances in 2020 by the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment shows that the SC-NBWL conducted three meetings in 2020 — in April, July and October — where a total of 82 proposals were considered.

National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) is a statutory Board constituted under Section 5 of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972. The NBWL is chaired by the Prime Minister and the standing committee of NBWL is a sun committee for carrying out its various duties and functions. 

Of these, 25 involved applications for diversions within protected areas (Pas), three proposals involved de-notification (deletion) of areas within a wildlife sanctuary for boundary alteration, 23 proposals were for diversions from tiger habitats and the rest 31 were applied for diversion within the 10-kilometer radius (default eco-sensitive zone) from the boundary of the PAs.

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Most of the projects cleared were for linear diversion within sanctuaries, national parks and tiger reserves. Linear projects are known to be especially destructive because they fragment the entire landscape and interrupt the movement range of animals.

“A total diversion of 1,792.51 hectares (ha) land was approved under 48 projects in the year 2020. From these, 24 proposals for diversion of 160.33 ha from PAs and 29 proposals from Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) of PA and Tiger Reserves were approved.

“Besides this, two of the three proposals for denotification of area from sanctuaries were granted approvals. Four proposals for policy changes were given a nod and four out of five modifications were recommended,” said the analysis.

The SC-NBWL in 2020 considered three proposals for deletion of areas within PAs for their boundary alteration. Of these, two were approved for deletion of 1,08,983 ha or 1089.83 km2 of PA from Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh and Great Indian Bustard (GIB) Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh.

The data available on the website of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change show about 40.74 per cent of diversion is due to linear projects (transmission lines, roads, railways and bridges).

Around 1040.47 ha approved for diversion from Eco-Sensitive Zones, of which 889.94 ha is forest land and rest 150.53 ha is non-forest land and 594.5752 ha was approved for diversion within tiger habitats for linear projects, defence and infrastructure development.