Road in Rann: GPCB’s public hearing in Feb, wildlife panel yet to take a call
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The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has scheduled a public hearing for a road that will cut through the Great Rann of Kutch (GRK), even as the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), which has the final authority to show green signal to the project, is yet to take a decision on the matter.
Public hearings are a prerequisite for issuing environment clearance to such projects. The GPCB has scheduled the public hearing for the 255-km Gaduli to Santhalpur highway on February 12 at Bhuj even as the 27th meeting of the NBWL, held in the last week of December 2012, remains undecided over whether it should allow the road.
NBWL's members have unanimously opposed the proposed road on grounds that it will divide the Rann's sea and fresh water mix, adversely affect Flamingo City (the largest breeding ground for India's flamingo population), disturb the endangered wild asses and possibly ruin archaeological remains at Dholavira, an Indus Valley Civilization site.
Proposed by the state's Road and Building Department and supported by the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Home Department, the road will cut through the Great Rann of Kutch from a point east of Khavda in the Banni Grasslands, not far from Kala Dungar, and extend till Khadir Bet (island), where Dholavira sits.
It will then move eastward through the island and move towards Bella, then cut the
Rann again to reach Santhalpur, on the north-western tip of the Little Rann of Kutch (LRK). In all, more than 79 hectares of land within the Kutch
Desert Wildlife Sanctuary and the Wild Ass Sanctuary would have to be diverted, besides cutting down 5,163 trees.
Although a parallel road exists along the northern reaches of the GRK, along the international border, the BSF and Home Department have supported the proposed road saying it will help in logistics of reinforcements and replenishments and aid the shifting of the sick and injured.
However, all seven members of the 10-member NBWL have opposed the road and Environment Minister Jayanthi Natatajan, the board's chairperson, is yet to take a final decision on the matter.
"There was no yes or no this time. Natarajan only took all our opinions. It seems unusual for the public hearing to be scheduled now, but its legality would be a matter of debate," said a board member who declined to be named because the minutes of the 27th meeting have not been officially released yet.
GPCB said member-secretary, Hardik Shah, too said the issue comes under different laws and that each would undergo their own processes.
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