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Drone eyes in sky keeping intruders off Vidarbha’s Pench tiger reserve

“There has been a fall in poaching and illegal entry after the drone was deployed (a few months ago). People are aware that they are being watched,” said Reddy,

The big cats of the Pench tiger project in Vidarbha as well as the flora and fauna there can now rely on the eyes in the sky to protect them from poachers and tree-fellers. The officials have pressed into service a drone which will keep an eye out for intruders, be it to hunt animals or fish in the reservoir there. Located near Nagpur, the Pench tiger reserve is the first in Maharashtra and the second in India after the Panna tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh to procure an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for conservation purposes. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Buoyed by the success, officials are planning to procure and deploy more drones to effectively cover reserve’s 257.26 sq.km core area and a 483.96 sq.km buffer zone, habitating 21 tigers, 33 species of mammals, over 160 species of birds, reptiles, fishes and amphibians. “We are using the drone to get an aerial view of the park,” MS Reddy, chief conservator of forests and field director of the Pench project told dna. “It provides us an aerial view of the park, its water bodies and helps map the area,” he said, adding the drone was being used for aerial reconnaissance, protection, photography and documentation. The drone can stream live photos and videos though it is not equipped with a night-vision camera as of now.”There has been a fall in poaching and illegal entry after the drone was deployed (a few months ago). People are aware that they are being watched,” said Reddy, adding the “idea itself acts as a deterrent”. “We are also using it to watch if fishing is taking place in the Pench reservoir, in violation of the ban. It helps us devise a strategy after estimating the strength of the fishermen,” he said. The drone in use costs around Rs 1.10 lakh and plans are afoot to buy bigger ones. “We are going in for bigger ones, as the one in use has a flight time of just 15 minutes. We are looking for a UAV which has a flight time of over one hour,” he added. Around 20 forest personnel have been trained in using the drone. “Technology is a great help in conservation,” he noted, adding the drone could observe intruders from a distance and could stay safe unlike camera traps which could be easily accessed and damaged. Located at a distance of around 70km from Nagpur, the Pench tiger reserve was declared as India’s 25th tiger reserve in 1999. It also has an eco-tourism area. The reserve is an important corridor between the forest areas of Madhya Pradesh (Pench Tiger Reserve) and Nagzira-Navegaon and Tadoba- Andhari Tiger Reserves in Maharashtra. African safariPlayers and coaches of the South African cricket team visited Pench on Saturday for a tiger safari. The team could get a glimpse of the big cat, a leopard and other birds and animals, said Reddy. Senior forest department officials and experts accompanied them.

NHAI finally agrees to NH7 wildlife mitigation plan

After several flip-flops, citizen protests and pressure from the National green Tribunal (NGT) the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has finally come around to accept a wildlife mitigation plan that will aide movement of tigers and other wildlife across the widened NH7 in the Kanha-Pench corridor. The Kanha-Pench corridor connecting national parks at these two places is considered one of the best tiger habitats in the country and the proposed four-laned NH7 will cut through this corridor. The mitigation plan agreed upon includes building an eco-duct or a landscaped animal overpass in the Madhya Pradesh section, which will be a first in the country, and animal under passses in the Maharashtra stretch.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The development is significant as NHAI had in the past rejected Wildlife Institute of India’s mitigation plan on the grounds that it would increase the project budget substantially. According to sources, the estimated cost of the entire mitigation plan – Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh stretch – will be Rs.515 crores.Earlier this week, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) during a meeting of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) decided to grant wildlife clearance to the expansion of NH7 through the tiger corridor. During the meeting, the ministry and NHAI decided that a eco-duct or a landscaped animal overpass will be built above the main carriageway in the Khawasa and Rukhad section of NH7 in Madhya Pradesh.Sharing the details of the eco-duct, an NHAI official said, “We have agreed in-principal to build four eco-ducts of which two will be of 500m and one each of 800m and 300m in length. There will be 14 other minor structures too. We will spend approximately Rs300 crores on mitigation.” The eco-duct wildlife crossing will be a first of its kind mitigation measure to be adopted the country, made popular in Canada, Netherlands and Belgium.On the Maharashtra side of NH7, it has been decided that three animal underpasses will be built under the vehicular overpass. An NHAI official in-charge of the project in Maharashtra said, “Three animal underpasses will be built with two of 750m in length and one 300m long with a height of 5m each. Although I cannot quote the exact budget for the plan, it will cost an estimated amount of Rs215 crores.” Speaking on WII’s earlier recommendation, the NHAI official from MP said, “WII’s earlier recommendation to build a 2km long underpasses and 2km long elevated flyovers did not seem feasible to us and hence we had asked them to modify it.” The NHAI, though, have also been rapped in the NGT for not delaying a mitigation plan and are due to submit it before the TribunalWildlife conservationists said that mitigation measures should be studied carefully before implementation and authorities should also build pedestrian crossings on high-speed highways. “There is no precedent of a wildlife crossing for tigers anywhere, but mountain lions do use tunnels in California and elephants use crossings in Kenya. It is a recent innovation and it will be really helpful if we implement it properly. Along with it, highways should also have pedestrian crossings,” said Vidya Athreya, wildlife biologist, Wildlife Conservation Society. ‘Not feasible’Speaking on WII’s earlier recommendation, the NHAI official from MP said, “WII’s earlier recommendation to build a 2km long underpasses and 2km long elevated flyovers did not seem feasible to us and hence we had asked them to modify it.” The NHAI, though, have also been rapped in the NGT for not delaying a mitigation plan and are due to submit it before the Tribunal

After opposing it in NGT, MoEF grants wildlife clearance for NH7 widening

Announcing the decision to give wildlife clearance to NH7, environment minister Prakash Javadekar said, “The process of four-laning NH7 has moved ahead.

The petitioner in the case has argued that the project will hit Kanha-Pench tiger corridor

PTI
After repeatedly submitting before National Green Tribunal (NGT) and through its letters to the Maharashtra government that a wildlife clearance was not required for widening National Highway (NH7), the environment ministry’s national board for wildlife (NBWL) on Tuesday accorded wildlife clearance to the project.Announcing the decision to give wildlife clearance to NH7, environment minister Prakash Javadekar said, “The process of four-laning NH7 has moved ahead. Mitigation measures have been agreed upon and clearance has been accorded on the basis of mitigation measures.” The minister did not specify what exact mitigation measures have been agreed upon for smooth passage of tigers. But, dna has learnt from reliable sources that the ministry has agreed to build underpass totalling 2.2km in length, substantially reducing it from the original 5.5kms of underpasses that was recommended by Wildlife Institute of India.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The ministry’s decision to take up wildlife clearance of NH7 widening goes against all submissions it has made in an on-going case in NGT. The petitioner in the case has argued that the project will adversely impact Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, one of the best in the country and will also lead to ecological damage due to felling of 20,000 trees.The widening and tree cutting will happen on a 37kms stretch between Mansar and Khawasa.The ministry’s counsel and NHAI counsel have consistently argued in NGT that wildlife clearance is not required as the project does not pass close to any protected areas. Whereas, the Wildlife Protection Act clearly states that in corridors which link two tiger reserves with each other it is essential to take the approval from the NBWL. In fact in a hearing last week, the NGT had rapped the ministry and National Highways Authority of India for the absence of a wildlife clearance. The ministry’s decision on Tuesday seems to follow NGT’s stern stand and its shaky legal grounds.Okhla bird sanctuary eco-sensitive zone finalisedThe NBWL meeting headed by Prakash Javadekar also finalized the eco-sensitive zone around the Okhla bird sanctuary, giving relief to thousands of home-buyers.The decision bring relief to around 60,000 home-buyers in Noida whose homes have not received a completion certificate. Speaking on the decision, Javadekar said, “We have finalized the draft notification and the final notification will be brought out in one week. It is a relief for home buyers who have invested their savings.” The Okhla bird sanctuary has an avian paradise with 400 species recorded at the site. The National Green Tribunal is hearing a matter on construction in the sanctuary’s eco-sensitive zone and had ordered that completion certificates cannot be given to home within 10kms of the bird habitat.The final eco-sensitive zone will stretch up to 100 metres on the eastern, western and southern boundary and up to 1.27km on the northern boundary of the sanctuary till the Delhi-Noida Direct Flyway across the river bed.

No wildlife clearance with NHAI to widen highway in tiger habitat

The NGT bench said that as per Supreme Court’s verdict, every project within 10kms of any national park or tiger reserve requires prior clearance from NBWL.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has not obtained the statutory wildlife clearance for widening NH7 through the critical Kanha-Pench tiger corridor thus failing to comply with conditions of forest clearance, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has said in a significant order. NGT’s principal bench has been hearing a matter three Maharashtra-based NGOs, who want the four-laning of NH7 – between Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh – to be stopped as it cuts through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, one of the best in the country and will involve felling of over 20,000 trees. This critical corridor, according to environment ministry’s own data, is home to 100 tigers, and bisons.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During the hearing, Srushti Paryavaran Mandal’s counsel had highlighted that the critical corridor is significant for preserving the two-source tiger population and a project in this corridor would require wildlife clearance. The NGT bench, chaired by justice Swatanter Kumar noted that NHAI was given in-principal approval for diversion of 42.24 hectares of forest for the widening work on the condition that they will obtain wildlife clearance from National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). But, NHAI did not comply with this condition.The NGT bench said that as per Supreme Court’s verdict, every project within 10kms of any national park or tiger reserve requires prior clearance from NBWL. The tribunal’s observations are significant in the light of the NHAI’s stand that wildlife clearance was not required since the project passed through a corridor and not a protected area.The bench also highlighted that the Stage-II or final forest clearance was granted for the project this May, even as the appeal against the project was pending the tribunal. “If granting of Forest Clearance is finally set aside by the tribunal, and yet trees are permitted to be felled/cut, the environment and ecology of the area would certainly be disturbed and get adversely affected in a way that its restoration at a later stage would be impossible”, the bench said in its order.The tribunal also pulled up the Maharashtra state government for issuing a working permission for the project without checking and verifying if NHAI had fulfilled the conditions laid down in the forest clearance granted. The NHAI is also to yet finalize a mitigation plan for the smooth passage of animals across NH7 and the tribunal has given NHAI time till August 24 to submit a final mitigation plan for animal movement.

MoEF, NHAI to submit NH7 mitigation plan for animal movement to National Green Tribunal in two weeks

The NGT has been hearing a matter involving three Maharashtra-based NGOs, who want the four-laning of NH7 – between Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh – to be stopped as it cuts through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, one of the best in the country and will involve felling of over 20,000 trees.

The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) informed the National Green Tribunal on Wednesday that they will be submitting a plan on the mitigation measures for movement of animals across NH7 in two weeks. The NGT has been hearing a matter involving three Maharashtra-based NGOs, who want the four-laning of NH7 – between Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh – to be stopped as it cuts through the Kanha-Pench tiger corridor, one of the best in the country and will involve felling of over 20,000 trees. This critical corridor, according to the environment ministry’s own data, is home to 100 tigers, and bisons.<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>During Wednesday’s hearing, MoEFCC informed NGT’s principal bench, that they had a meeting with NHAI, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Maharashtra government and the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) last Sunday to discuss the measures to mitigate the impact of NH7 widening on wildlife. Another round of meetings will take place and the ministry and NHAI are to submit a mitigation plan to NGT. According to sources, the NHAI, after trying to downgrade WII’s recommendations, is now trying to work out a compromise to expedite the widening project, which has to begin with felling of thousands of trees.Before today’s hearing, the MoEFCC had remained ambiguous on the mitigation plan prepared by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehra Dun, while the NHAI has been for long been trying to mould the mitigation plan to suit their convenience, cutting it down to size to reduce the expenditure. WII’s original plan involved Rs 750 crores of expenditure as it involved building overpasses and underpasses, but NHAI pared it down to Rs 244 crores and eventually to Rs 4.95 crore. But, after the NTCA last week informed NGT about the tiger corridor’s importance, NHAI did a volte-face and said they are willing to build longer underpasses and the hearing was followed by the Sunday meeting.The principal bench of the NGT, chaired by justice Swatanter Kumar, also made it clear to the MoEFCC, NHAI and Maharashtra government that no trees should be felled until mitigation plans are submitted. This has caught NHAI in a sticky situation as the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court has already allowed felling of trees. In fact, justice Swatanter Kumar got riled up and asked the ministry’s counsel as to how the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court had passed tree felling orders despite an interim stay by the NGT principal bench.

NH7 widening: NTCA makes no mention of mitigation measures in their affidavit to NGT

The omission of mitigating measures from NTCA’s affidavit is glaring, as a lot of controversy has brewed over the environment ministry’s and National Highway Authority reluctance to adopt extensive mitigating measures.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), in their affidavit to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the NH7 widening case, made no mention of the mitigation measures suggested by Wildlife Institute of India (WII) to facilitate tiger movement. The NTCA had been asked to reply to a petition filed by Srushtri Paryavaran Mandal, who have prayed for quashing of the NH7 widening as it will cut through the critical Pench-Kanha tiger corridor.The omission of mitigating measures from NTCA’s affidavit is glaring, as a lot of controversy has brewed over the environment ministry’s and National Highway Authority reluctance to adopt extensive mitigating measures. The WII had suggested construction of 1km long elevated road and 750m long underpasses to ensure smooth movement of tigers across NH7, in what is one of the best tiger habitats in the country<!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>In their four-page affidavit to the NGT bench chaired by Swatanter Kumar, NTCA has admitted that the Pench-Kanha corridor landscape is one of the best that exists with two source populations.But during the hearing, senior counsel Pinka Mishra who was representing NHAI, attempted to show the bench that the tiger corridors are not in the purview of notified protected areas. To this, the bench asked NTCA member secretary BS Bonal, if there is evidence of tiger movement. Bonal replied in affirmative. To this, the bench asked him if they had approved any mitigation plans, and Bonal once again replied in affirmative. But, contrary to Bonal’s claims, the NTCA has not approved or finalised any mitigation plan and a proposal is pending with the chief wildlife warden of Maharashtra forest department, sources confirmed.Also, counsel for Srushti Paryavaran Mandal advocate Ritwick Dutta highlighted that despite Bonal’s affirmative reply, NTCA’s affidavit made no mention of the mitigation plan.Curiously, in contradiction to the NHAI’s stand up till now of building only underpasses of 50m, senior counsel Pinaki Mishra, while replying to Dutta’s charge that mitigation measures have not been accepted, said, “NHAI is willing to build 750 metres long underpasses for animals. Dutta also added later, that rather than the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and NTCA, it is the NHAI who is suggesting mitigation measures. TheThe NGT, after being informed that Nagpur high court has allowed felling of trees in an order this week, has said that it will not give up its powes and the interim order, staying tree felling stays. The bench has fixed the next hearing for August 5.

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