TRAGBAL: Sanctuary project will be altered for army firing range

Bandipora: Wildlife authorities are likely to alter Kishanganga Wildlife Sanctuary project in Gurez to pave way for army’s imminent takeover of Tragal meadow in the same area for use as an artillery firing range, a move that has drawn criticism from various quarters.
For its rich variety of flora and fauna, Tragbal is one of the areas cleared by the government of India for inclusion in wildlife protected zones. Also, the state wildlife department has completed the groundwork for the sanctuary project.
The state government’s proposal to hand over Tragbal meadows to the army for setting up an artillery firing range here has drawn opposition from many quarters. Local residents, activists, students, teachers and environmental experts have taken to social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to express their resentment against the move.
A petition has been created on change.org by some environmental activists and local residents to garner support against the proposed firing range.
North Kashmir Wildlife Warden Mohammad Maqbool Baba said the Wildlife department along with Bandipora forest department had in 2012 submitted a preliminary report followed by a ground survey report in 2014, both notifying many compartments of Gurez forest range as wildlife protected area, where were to be collectively named as Kishenganga Wildlife Sanctuary.
The sanctuary would have encompassed an area of approximately 108 square kilometers.
The survey report along with the proposal was submitted to the higher officials in the wildlife department in 2104-15, according to the officials. But due to some undefined reasons, the higher officials in the wildlife department are yet to take it up with the state government.
Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir Chaturbuj Behra dropped this reporter’s call.
Sources in the department, however, said the department will carry out a fresh survey exclude some areas from the proposed sanctuary project to pave way for Tragbal meadow’s handover to the army.
According to Behra, the fresh survey is a routine task that will be conducted after snow melts.
“We may be adding or altering some areas but as far as the already submitted (sanctuary) proposal is concerned we will try to abide by that,” he said.
The pristine meadows of the Gurez Valley and forests above it have enjoyed protection due to their remoteness. The valley is home to Snow Leopard, Hangul, Musk Deer, Barking Deer, Black Bear, Markhor, Ibex, and Marmot, etc.
An under-construction power project in the area will inundate a large area of the Gurez Valley and alter the ecology of the hillsides, meadows and forests forever. The shifting of firing range to Tragbal, according to environmental experts, will play havoc with wildlife protected areas and damage the ecology.

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