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10,000 trees chopped off for PM Modi’s tiger safari in Corbett

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A tiger safari in Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR), which Prime Minister Narendra Modi envisioned while filming an episode of ‘Man Vs. Wild’ for Discovery Channel in the tiger reserve in 2019, is in trouble after a petition sent to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) alleged that 10,000 trees in the protected area had been cut down instead of the 163 trees proposed by the state for the project.

The actual report

Sonali Ghosh, the Central Zoo Authority’s deputy inspector general of forests, inquired about the status of trees chopped off from the Uttarakhand forest department on Friday. The head of Uttarakhand’s forest force, Rajiv Bhartari, told TOI that he has requested a factual report from PCCF (wildlife) within a week.

Uttarakhand applied to the Ministry of Forests and Environment (MoEF) in 2019 for approval of its first tiger safari, which would give tourists a “sure-shot glimpse” of the tiger.

Cutting of 10,000 trees

Corbett

Supreme Court advocate and activist Gaurav Bansal filed a complaint with the NTCA on August 26 of this year, claiming that 10,000 trees were cut down in Corbett to create the safari.

It requested that NTCA and CZA verify the actual number of trees cut down and withdraw their approvals for the project.

Bansal told TOI, “The project is spread over 106 hectares and a minimum of 10,000 trees have been felled to set up the safari. This violates a Supreme Court order as well.”

The Supreme Court in a judgment in 2001 had stated that no tree in CTR should be felled “under any circumstance by the state or anyone else”.

The complaint against the action

As stated in his complaint, a clearance from the forest advisory committee was required under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 to use land in Corbett’s Pakhro block (Sonanadi range) for non-forestry activities.

“Uttarakhand forest department gave in writing to the FAC that 163 trees will be felled. The permission granted to establish the safari was primarily based on this,” the complaint said.

According to Kisanchand, the Divisional Forest Officer (Kalagarh), only 163 trees had been marked and felled by the forest corporation in the area of the tiger safari.

It was later revealed that “officials knew 10,000 to 12,000 trees would be felled for the project,” according to a forest department source.

“Everyone at the higher level knew that thousands of trees would need to be axed for this project to see the light of day. There was probably pressure to get the safari off the ground,” the source said.

The Director of Corbett Tiger Reserve Rahul (who only goes by his first name) had written to the SDO of Kalagarh on July 6 to ensure “all activities related to the safari project comply with the law”.

“The Pakhro tiger safari was an announcement of the Prime Minister of India and it is one of the most important projects of the state government. Therefore, tree felling and all the other works related to the safari must be done by law and guidelines so that this important project doesn’t get into any controversy,” the letter said.

Another such incident

In January 2019, 1000 trees were chopped off in preparation for PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Odisha.

The prime minister needed a helipad in Balangir, so workers cut down trees to make room for it. From Balangir station, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will flag off the first train on the Khurda-Balangir railway line.

Balangir Divisional Forest Officer Sameer Satpathy informed the media that the trees had been cut down without the department’s permission.

“When our staff tried to stop the cutting of trees, the site in-charge said that there had been strict instructions from higher authorities to make space for the helipad”.

Also Read: Rajasthan PTET Results are out: Know how to check it

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