Sunday, 8 May 2011

Letter to PM, 5th Oct, 2009 re YSR Memorial in forest


The Honorable Prime Minister and Chairperson
National Board for Wildlife
South Block
New Delhi – 110 001.

5th October, 2009


Honourable Chairperson,

Sub:    Illegal Order of State of Andhra Pradesh directing the construction of a “Smruthi Vanam” in memory of the late Chief Minister in the notified Gundla Brameswaram Wildlife Sanctuary, in violation of law, procedures and prevailing Supreme Court orders.

Greetings on the occasion of Wildlife Week.

We, the non-official members of the National Board for Wildlife, request your immediate and urgent intervention to prevent the imminent destruction of pristine wildlife habitat in the Gundla Brameswaram Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh, where the State Government has ordered the construction of a memorial, “Smruti Vanam”, at the helicopter crash site of the late Chief Minister. 

The Government Order notifying 1412.14 hectares of forestland – G.O. Ms. No. 83 dated 30-09-2009 directing the setting up of the said “Smruti Vanam” (Memorial) is at Annexure 1.

Copy of a press report is at Annexure 2.

The grounds to seek your urgent and immediate intervention are as follows:

1.    The said area falls in the heart of the fully constituted Gundla Brameswaram Sanctuary.

2.   The said Government Order directing the construction of “Smruti Vanam” is in violation of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and connected Rules.

3.   The actions of the State of Andhra Pradesh are in gross violation of the Orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in IA 548/2000 dated 14-02-2000 and IA 1220 & IA 994 dated 25-11-2005 which expressly prohibit felling of any trees and construction activity inside a Sanctuary.

4.   Due process of law has not been followed, as the proposal has not been placed before the State Board for Wildlife and the National Board for Wildlife. 

5.   Government of Andhra Pradesh had agreed in 2008 that the said area will be notified as a Core/Critical Tiger Habitat based on which permission to construct the Pula Subbaiah
      Veligonda Irrigation project was granted by the National Board for Wildlife at the 10th meeting of the Standing Committee held on 19th February, 2008 under the chairmanship
      of the Hon’ble Minister of State for Forests & Wildlife. An extract of the decision as recorded in the minutes is at Annexure 3.

The 1140 sq km Gundla Brameswaram Sanctuary is contiguous to the Nagarajunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve and is part of the largest block of Eastern Ghats forest in the country, which is extremely rich in biodiversity.  Any construction activity in this highly sensitive area will cause irreversible fragmentation of an otherwise pristine landscape.
The current proposal to construct a memorial inside a notified Sanctuary will set an extremely bad precedent.

While we fully appreciate the desire of the Government of Andhra Pradesh to honour and commemorate the memory of the late respected leader, we believe that it will be more fitting to develop the proposed memorial in land outside the sanctuary rather than cut trees and destroy part of a pristine forest.  Also, as a tribute to the late leader, and his desire to conserve forests and wildlife, the Sanctuary may be re-named in his memory and this natural breeding habitat left in peace.

It is reliably learnt that there is a continuous influx of people at the crash site, as well as felling of trees, and other activities, which are not only in gross violation of law, and the Orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, but also inimical to the conservation of wildlife and protection of the Sanctuary and its habitat. In view of the above facts, we request you to immediately intervene in the matter and advise the State of Andhra Pradesh to rescind the said Government Order and ensure status quo on the ground.

Yours faithfully,

Brijendra Singh

Signed on behalf of and in consultation with the following members:

Wildlife Protection Society of India - Belinda Wright; Wildlife First - Praveen Bhargav; World Wide Fund for Nature-India - Ravi Singh; Bombay Natural History Society - Dr. Asad Rahmani; Reef Watch – Mitali Kakar; Dr. Divyabhanusinh Chavda; Valmik Thapar; B. Mohanty; Dr. B. Talukdar; Shekar Dattatri; Dilip Khatau; Bonani Kakkar; Dr. M.K. Ranjitsinh

1)  Hon’ble Minister of State (Independent Charge), Environment and Forests
2)  The Director General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests
3)  The Member Secretary, National Board for Wildlife
4)  The Member Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority