NAGPUR: The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) locked horns over mitigation measures as suggested by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun.
At a meeting on Wednesday in Delhi, NHAI officials said the suggestions by WII were impractical and impossible to implement. The meeting was attended by NTCA member-secretary Rajesh Gopal, WII director P R Sinha, APCCF (wildlife) A K Saxena, Maharashtra, NHAI’s V K Sharma, Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) Ashok Kumar and others.
The WII had reviewed mitigation measures by NHAI after making field visit and had submitted a report to the NTCA last month. On NH-6, NHAI has been asked to construct underpasses for animals from 1 to 2 kms in length and 7 metres in height in stretches between Maramjob-Bahmni (4.150km), Bamhni-Duggipar (3.050km) and Sakoli-Mundipar (3.200km) falling between Bhandara and Gondia districts.
Apart from these, WII has also proposed two additional structures in completed patch between Sirpur-Nawatola (6.300km). These stretches will bifurcate wildlife corridors between Kanha, Pench, Navegaon, Nagzira and Tadoba protected areas (PAs).
Sources attending the meeting told TOI that NHAI officials expressed reluctance to implement the WII recommendations. They said underpasses such dimensions would cost too much and argued that in Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand, crossovers of 6-metre height have been constructed for elephants.
On NH-6, if the WII suggestions were accepted, it would need Rs 891 crore in Maharashtra section and Rs 300 crore in Chhattisgarh section. “Our total project cost in both the states was Rs 825 crore – Rs 425 crore in Maharashtra and Rs 400 crore in Chhattisgarh,” NHAI officials said. They also added that this huge amount would mean massive increase in toll tax.
The NHAI officials also claimed that not a single animal had died on widened sections of NH-6. In fact, three leopards have died on NH-6 in the last two years and a tigress had fallen in a well in Katlabodi near Nagpur due to road-widening, that breaks corridors.
The NTCA and WII officials made it clear that there will be no compromise on recommendations. P R Sinha refused to comment but said the report would go to the government which would have to take a call.
A K Saxena was not available for comments but he is learnt to have taken a firm stand that NHAI should not have started work on NH-6 when forest clearance was awaited. It violated the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980. NHAI was asked to give in writing its objections on WII report. The WII said it would reply promptly.
The WTI officials at the meeting said there was need to map all the roads proposed to be widened and those cutting through the wildlife corridors.