Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Prerna Bindra's dissent note on approvals, April 26, 2011

I request that my dissent note be recorded on the following proposals taken up before the Standing Committee meeting on April 25th, 2011:

On the minutes of  21st meeting of the Standing committee on January 24th  2011
4.1(13)  Diversion of 3.9892 ha of forest land in Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary for widening of existing 2 lane of NH-24 to 4 lane road from KM 86.00 to KM 93 in Ghaziabad District, Uttar Pradesh.
It was pointed out by Ms Prerna Bindra that the area of Hastinapur sanctuary is 2079 sq km. The sanctuary has huge human habitation; there are villages, highways etc,  and huge tracts  have been degraded and fragmented and are known to have become of little  value to wildlife. But crucially, there are still pockets which are of immense biodiversity value, with swamp deer, leopard, jungle cat, sarus cranes, Gangetic dolphins which must not be compromised. It will be prudent to have a site visit to understand which part of the sanctuary this and other proposals pertaining to Hastinapur sanctuary is being impacted by the proposals put before the committee,  on the basis of which an informed decision can be made. It was assured that the area in question was not of value to wildlife, but to be on the side of caution it was agreed that a site inspection be made and after ascertaining the facts, due permission may be given subject to the following.
During the April 25th meeting, it was pointed out that clearance for the above proposal was given unconditionally during the January 24th meeting. However, I would like to place on record my dissent to a blanket clearance without verifying the area’s value in terms of wildlife/biodiversity, as specified above.

Main Agenda Items of the meeting of April 25th 2011
2[4.2(4)]: Diversion of 7.2871 ha of forest land for construction of Ropeway from Bhavnath Taleti to Ambaji Temple in Girnar Wildlife Sanctuary by Usha Breco Ltd, Ahmedabad, Gujarat.  
The ropeway will pass through  a known breeding site of the long billed vulture (69 vultures in 2010, an increase from the last count of 41, suggesting an increase in numbers, as against a massive decline in the state, and indeed India.)
The report by Shri Divyabhanusinh and Dr Nita Shah placed before the committee on January 24th clearly states that the ropeway, if constructed, would lead to the local extinction of the long-billed vulture Gyps indicus in North Gujarat.  The critically endangered long billed vulture has seen a collapse of nearly 99% of its population, and is categorised as Critically Endangered. Ironically, the vulture is part of MoEF’s species recovery programme.
I record my dissent on the committee’s decision to clear the above proposal.

2[4(B)(12)]Proposal for denotification of forest area of Radhanagri Sanctuary for Savarde minor irrigation project.
I record my dissent on this clearance given the harmful ecological impacts, which were also discussed in the meeting. It is understood that the area to be submerged is under very good forest cover which will be destroyed irreplaceably.

2[4.1 (17)] Diversion of 0.205 ha of forest land from Fambonglho Wildlife Sanctuary for construction of Sang Naya Bazar water supply scheme from Lalichok to Sang in East Sikkim.
2[4.1 (18)] Diversion of 1.9718 ha of forest land from Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary for construction of water supply scheme from Mithuney to Rhenock in (South) Sikkim.
2[4.1 (19)] Diversion of 0.50 ha of forest land from Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary for construction of water supply scheme from Jelep la stream to Kupup in (North) Sikkim.
The decision is to allow for all three proposals, as recommended by Dr A.J.T. Johnsingh, and with  the conditions imposed as in the report submitted by Prerna Singh Bindra.
I record my dissent on the decision to allow for 2[4.1 (18)], and request that my report of the site visit be placed on record.

4.1 (6) Permission for 330 MW Dholpur Gas based combined cycle thermal power project stage-II drawing water from National Chambal Ghariyal Sanctuary at Dholpur, Rajasthan
The Chambal river harbours 85 per cent of the entire population of the critically endangered gharial and a high density of the national aquatic animal, the Gangetic dolphin per river km. The ‘Assessment of minimum water flow requirements of Chambal River in the context of Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) and Gangetic Dolphin (Platanista gangetica) conservation’ conducted by the Wildlife Institute of India categorically states that any further withdrawl of water from Chambal river will seriously affect the gharial, the wildlife and other ecosystem service values of the river. 
I record my dissent on the decision to give permission for the above proposal

Setting up of Jaypee Super Cement Plant from Clinker production 2.01 MTPA to 2.50 MTPA, 2.1 km from Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary
My report on the above proposal may be put on record.

Proposal for denotification of entire area of Trikuta Wildlife Sanctuary (31.40 Sq. Kms), Jammu and Kashmir
This denotification sets up a very bad precedent of denotifying entire sanctuaries.
It has been decided this in lieu of the denotification another PA should be declared. As pointed out by Dr MK Ranjitsinh, such a site - double the area of the current notification - should be identified with a proper biodiversity survey,  and put before the Board and first notified as a PA before any denotification of Trikuta Wildlife Sanctuary.

Proposal for diversion of 7.005 ha of protected land from Compartment No.5 of  Bahu Conservation Reserve in favour of Revenue Department for  leasing to the Army, in lieu of the Army land acquired by the Revenue Department.
 The agreement and assurance of transferring revenue land to the army was made by the revenue department, and from the information given there seems to be no role of the forest department while giving this assurance. It was the revenue department which acquired the army land. In such circumstances it would be highly inappropriate for a Protected Area to be diverted; it will set a wrong precedent that part of a Conservation Reserve is diverted in order the meet assurances given by the revenue department.

Proposal for setting up Captive Thermal Power Plant (4x60MW) with 1 MTPA Cement Grinding Unit and 1 MTPA Coal Washery by M/s. J.P. Associates Pvt. Ltd. , 1.5 Kms from boundary of Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary
The report for the site visit  for M/s Jaypee Super Cement Plant from clinker production 2.01 MTPA to 2.50 MTPA in Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh (for which my report has been submitted) records that the JP Associates flouted the Forest Conservation Act and ignored the directions of the honourable Apex court, the  directions of  the CEC and the directions of the regional office (Central) of the MoEF.
It came to our notice that construction has already began for the Captive Thermal Power Plant (4x60MW) with 1 MTPA Cement Grinding Unit and 1 MTPA Coal Washery, again without the mandatory clearance.  A clarification and information has been sought from the concerned DFO.  Also in light of the fact that a related matter of the JP Super Cement plant  is subjudice (with information concealed from the  Standing Committee at the time of submitting the proposal), it is judicious that this proposal be very carefully examined, before any decision is taken.

Prerna Singh Bindra
Member, Standing Committee, National Board of Wildlife
April 26, 2011