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Bad news for Telangana’s big cats

The Hindu
New Delhi
23 Aug 2017

The Telangana State Forest Department’s stand vis-a-vis construction of eco-friendly bridges across the proposed Pranahita canal, especially in Bejjur forests in Kumram Bheem Asifabad district, is intriguing.

While the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has approved construction of 18 eco-bridges at different locations especially on the over 5 km stretch of the canal passing through Bejjur forest range, the Forest Department has sought reduction in the number of bridges.

Improve movement

According to KB Asifabad district forest officials, who incidentally are not in the know of the such developments, the reduction in number of bridges would hamper tiger movement. “Higher number of bridges are meant to improve tiger movement,” pointed out a forest official from the district.

The 44th meeting of the standing committee of the NBWL held on July 29 in New Delhi, considered a request from the Telangana State Chief Wildlife Warden to reduce the number of bridges. Acceding to the request the NBWL has deputed a team of experts from Wildlife Institute of India which will conduct studies on August 21 to evaluate the proposal.

When asked how many bridges he wanted reduced, Chief Wildlife Warden Manoranjan Bhanja told The Hindu that he cannot say. The technical team from WII would finalise the number and size of the eco bridges, he asserted.

Canal alignment

Another intriguing factor for environmentalists is that the Forest Department is not pressing for an alternate alignment of the canal. The present alignment, which has the canal crossing twice the existing Salgupalli-Penchikalpet road, would destroy 622 hectares forest land which includes 1 lakh fully grown trees of over 30 cm in girth and another 2 lakh of less than 30 cm in girth.

The alternative alignment, according to an environmentalist working in the area who does not want to be quoted, could be the one connecting Salgupally with Kondapally from the right side of the road. This alignment has less of forest and would pass through forest clearings that have encroachments.

Encroachments

“The loss of vegetation will be lower and the government would have no problem acquiring the encroached upon forest land,” the environmentalist asserted as he tried to drive home the point. “There will be no question of the canal cutting through the existing road too,” he added.

The Irrigation department however, wants to stick to the same alignment for convenience. “We are following the ridge-valley method of alignment so that water flows through gravity which is not possible if the alignment is changed,” observed a top engineering official.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-andhrapradesh/bad-news-for-telanganas-big-cats/article19542611.ece