The recent decision by the Trivendra Singh Rawat government to build a highway right through the Corbett National Park, for better connectivity between Kumaon and Garhwal regions of Uttarakhand (India), is being met with a lot of resistance on social media. An online petition started by Dehradun-based Ashish Garg on Thursday (23-03-2017) has been signed by more than a thousand people in less than 24 hours.
The petition at change.org, ‘Stop construction of highway through Corbett Park, Uttarakhand’, makes an appeal to the newly sworn-in CM not to go ahead with the project as “it will lead to environmental disaster”.
The stretch, at present a kutcha (unmetalled) road which cuts through the national park, has been caught in the development-versus-conservation debate in the hill state for long. It is closed for traffic as it is in a highly protected area.
Wildlife officials as well as experts have warned of serious implications for the animals, especially tigers, if the Kandi road is opened to vehicular traffic to provide a shorter route from Garhwal to Kumaon — without going through the Uttar Pradesh pockets. Soon after taking over, CM Rawat had expressed his desire to get the road opened for better connectivity.
The road, if it comes through, will also mean felling of thousands of trees and obstruction of the path of wild animals.
The petition, which mentions that the forest is already seeing ingress of lakhs of visitors that is affecting wildlife, has attracted a lot of interest among foreigners too. Petr Sipek, a lecturer at the department of zoology, Charles University, Prague, signed the petition, saying, “I have been to Corbett several times. I simply cannot understand the motivation to construct a road in between. This would be a big blow to all the conservation efforts of the Indian people and conservation organisations.”
Garg, who initiated this petition, said, “I hope somewhere this petition makes an impact. It is mainly to sensitize people and garner their support to stop construction of the Kandi highway right through the heart of Corbett. We are ready for sustainable development but not one that affects wildlife.”
Reacting to the development, Bivash Pandav, a scientist at Wildlife Institute of India (WII), said, “There are BJP governments in Uttarakhand, UP and the Centre, so it would be easy to draw a consensus and get a road through Amangarh, Badapur and Sauwala of UP, which will reduce travelling time from Haridwar to Ramnagar by three hours. This route is more feasible than the Kandi road which passes through the core of the tiger habitat in Corbett.” (Times of India)