New Delhi: The National Board of Wildlife (NWBL) has given its nod for clearances for the construction of 10 roads at the Indo-China border in Ladakh, citing their strategic importance.
In a meeting held this month, the NWBL also recommended imposing a two per cent “fine” as a “mitigation” measure for pursuing development work inside eco-sensitive zones.
The road clearances were granted following requests by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) to construct roads inside the Changthang Wildlife Sanctuary, a 1,400 sq. km park, which is home to the Tibetan wild ass, black cranes, and other rare animal species.
“These roads are strategically important for the security of the country and will be used by ITBP and military personnel for logistics and carriage of ammunition etc. to protect Indian territory up to international border,” said the minutes of the 7-August meeting, which were published last week.
The total area to be cleared for the roads amounts to over 115 hectares.
According to the minutes, the committee’s decision was also influenced by the Ladakh’s Chief Warden of Wildlife, who informed the panel that “the area required for the projects is very small compared to the area of the Changthang Sanctuary. He said that the animals found in this terrain are long ranging and no road kills have been recorded on the existing roads”.
The recommendations of the committee, which is chaired by Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav, follow a slew of other infrastructure projects being pushed by the government at the Indo-China border in Ladakh, in view of the stand-off with the Chinese military.
Also read: 20 ITBP troops awarded gallantry medals for bravely fighting Chinese PLA in Ladakh last year
‘Fine’ on eco-zones
Among other recommendations, the panel called for fining agencies with an additional charge of two per cent of construction costs for projects falling within eco-sensitive zones (ESZ), “for mitigation of impacts due to developmental activities”.
“The Ministry has received requests that the cost imposed should be based on the proportion of the project lying within the Protected Area or the ESZ rather than the total cost of the project. The Ministry has also received requests that instead of imposing costs on project proponents, they may be asked to implement mitigation measures,” the minutes said.
The suggestion of imposing a mitigation fine was first put forth by NWBL member R. Sukumar, a professor at the Centre for Ecological Studies, Indian Institute of Science.
NWBL member H.S. Singh, former principal conservator of forests in Gujarat, said the fine should be based on the proportion of the project falling in the ESZ, adding, that “if the project proponents are allowed to carry out mitigation measures inside Protected Areas, it will cause interference in the management of protected areas”.
Another member, U.D. Singh, founder of Gujarat Ecological Education and Research, said “project proponents do not have expertise in implementing mitigation measures”, and that the fines collected should be deposited with the Compensatory Afforestation Fund.
Also read: If India contests China’s Asian dominance, there will be no let-up in tensions: Shyam Saran