Wildlife reports the incident to higher offices in the contracting company; grazing animals and nude slopes further escalate threat to wildlife
Shopian: There is no let up in damages inflicted by development activities in Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary.
Agencies constructing an electricity transmission line through the wildlife sanctuary have chopped numerous trees, prompting the sanctuary’s wildlife warden to report the violations to the higher offices in the contracting agencies.
Ifshana Dewan, the warden, told Kashmir Reader that they have in 2016, contractors took advantage of the situation and violated the scheduled guidelines. While laying the transmission lines from Samba in Jammu and Baramulla in Kashmir via the Hirpora sanctuary, the agency chopped trees on virgin slopes for constructing roads to carry construction materials.
“This year, after our intervention, they are working as per the laws. We are in contact with them and deputy commissioner Shopian about the compensation,” Dewan said.
The sanctuary is also under immense pressure from grazing. Herds of sheep and cows graze in the park, preying on the food supply essential to sustain the rich wildlife stock in the protected area. The violations have become a “huge threat” to wild animals which include the endangered Pir Panchal markhor besides Himalayan brown bear, Himalayan black bear, musk deer, leopard, Tibetan wolf, and the Himalayan palm civet.
According to a survey conducted by Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with Wildlife department Jammu and Kashmir, there was 50 percent decline in population of endangered Pir Panjal Markhor population from 70 in 2003-04 to 35 in 2013-14.
Wildlife officials concede that heavy blasting during road construction and unchecked livestock grazing in the sanctuary were main reasons for the decline. “Wild animals are very sensitive, heavy explosions used by road contractors and livestock grazing biologically disturbed the animals resulting into decline of Markhor and other species,” the wildlife warden said.
Officials say that contractors worked as per their will which had put health of the sanctuary at stake. “They didn’t only denude the green slopes to install towers, they also damaged slopes by constructing the roads, which is against the laws,” an official said.
According to wildlife researchers, the ‘murder’ of slopes by STER LITE, the contracting agency, and herders (including non-local herds) was forcing wild animals move into human habitations for food and shelter. “We recently saw wild animals in public areas where they also injured and killed people,” Riyaz Ahmad, a wildlife researcher said. “Infiltration of herds limits the quantity of food and shelter for the wild animals.”
Experts say that as soon as the road blasting was stopped by the Mughal road project contractors, another agency came and started violating the guidelines and disturbed the ecological balance of the area. Earlier, contractors for Mughal road project had also denuded slopes. The contractors had promised the wildlife department that they shall construct embankments on roads, but did not keep their promise.
The Wildlife Warden said that the number of animals in wild life sanctuary was declining because of various reasons. “Damaging of slopes and natural damage in forests were also the reason of decline in number,” Dewan added.
Sources in wildlife department added that STER LITE subcontracted the work to local contractors who “added fuel to the fire” in destroying wild life sanctuary.
Dewan said that stopping herds from entering the sanctuary was not an easy job. she said “We are conducting several workshops to aware the herders to stop damaging the habitat of wildlife animals. They are cooperating in this regard and in next year grazing in the sanctuary would be limited.