Infrastructure News

Infra Projects Should Avoid Protected, Eco Critical Areas, Infra News, ET Infra

NAGPUR: The Supreme Court committee, constituted to develop a set of scientific and policy guidelines that shall govern decision-making with respect to cutting trees for developmental projects, has said that damage to protected areas (PAs) and ecologically critical areas must be avoided at all cost.

“If there are no alternative and viable options, the the government must be prepared to pay the extra cost to prevent their destruction while making linear infrastructure intrusions through them. Our PAs and other ecologically important places are the last havens of hope for the survival of precious heritage,” the seven-member committee headed by MK Ranjitsinh Jhala suggested.

In January 2022, the SC’s expert committee submitted a report – ‘Compensatory conservation in India: An analysis of the science, policy and practice’ that deals with tree felling, linear infrastructure, compensatory afforestation etc. The report was pursuant to the directions on March 25, 2021, in an SLP of 2018.

Linear infrastructure intrusions in forests and public lands of ecological importance are made because that is the easiest and cheapest way to proceed. No acquisition of land or displacement of people and property is involved and a mere pittance is paid for the diversion and destruction of land that has great ecological value.

The panel said that a change of mindset is required to save national heritage and it must be accepted that the conservation of these PAs and their equivalent natural areas are permanent and paramount. If a national highway must go through a national park, for instance, within the precincts of the park, the highway should traverse the distance underground, or follow the conservation requirements, and rules of that national park if perforce it has to go overground.

In earlier decades of the 20th century, hunting both, legal and otherwise, was presumed to be the main cause for the death and decline of larger faunal species. Gradually, it came to be realized that habitat fragmentation and decimation, and ecological alterations were far more harmful and pervasive.

The effects of roads and their infrastructure on the populations of 234 mammal and bird species, adduced from 49 studies, revealed that population densities declined perceptibly near infrastructures. The effect of roads and their infrastructure on bird populations extended over distances of up to 1km, and of mammals up to 5km.

The committee recommended the primacy of prevention, through the realignment of linear infrastructure intrusions by skirting around Pas, and other ecologically critical areas (ECAs) including recognized wildlife corridors. “If realignment and avoidance of the PAs, ECAs, and corridors are not feasible, the same would have to be certified by the concerned state. The extra cost involved in making any such realignment and avoidance must not be a reason,” the committee said.

“If a linear infrastructure intrusion has to be permitted through a PA or ECA, they must go underground despite the higher costs involved, and additional expense should not form an excuse to evade this norm,” the committee said.

  • Published On May 11, 2023 at 08:11 AM IST

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