Hirpora wildlife sanctuary: Transmission towers coming up at the cost of wildlife

SHOPIAN: After Mughal road construction through the premises of wildlife sanctuary, government now using heavy blasts to deface the slopes to raise transmission towers.

The Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary is home to endangered Pir Panjal Markhor, musk deer, endangered brown bear, endangered wolf and endangered leopard. Wildlife sanctuary is not only a sanctuary but a habitat for the wild animals.

Experts say that if the authorities failed to safeguard the sanctuary from the outside threat like blasting by contractors, livestock grazing and illegal construction like power lines and road. “According to the wildlife act of India, nobody can enter into the premises of wildlife sanctuary, not to talk about blasting and other constructions. But the norms have gone to wind when it came to Hirpora sanctuary,” a wildlife expert said.

Sources from wildlife protection department told Kashmir Reader that Deputy Commissioner Shopian is interfering into the matters of wildlife department despite the sanctuary being out of his jurisdiction. “He (the DC) recently issued an order allowing contractors to carry out blasts in the sanctuary premises,” an official said.

The impact of the ingress into the sanctuary is visible. The population of wild animals is on a steady decline. According to a survey conducted by Wildlife Trust of India in collaboration with wildlife department of Jammu and Kashmir, there was 50% decline in population of endangered Pir Panjal Markhor from 70 in 2004 to 35 in 2013-14.

Most of the officials who are concerned with Hirpora wildlife sanctuary are tight lipped to on the blasting conducted by M/s Sterlites. Range Officer Hirpora told Kashmir Reader that there was no blasting in any area of this sanctuary. However, an official wishing to to be named said that the blasting was conducted in Lal Gulam area.

“When we went there to stop the contracting agencies from conducting blasting, police and Deputy Commissioner Shopian, Mohammad Aijaz intervened and forced us to leave the area,” the official said.

Hirpopra wildlife sanctuary is also the catchment of Rambiara rivulet. “Disturbing of alpines, sub-alpines and meadows also leads to floods. In this forest area all these illegal activities are on peak,” a forest expert said.

“The officials of wildlife department are helpless to stop the blasting within the premises of Sanctuary because there is huge pressure from state and central government to complete the work of laying transmission lines,” another official said.

When contacted wildlife warden Hirpora wildlife Sanctuary, Ifshana Dewan said that she cannot talk regarding any issue of Hirpora wildlife sanctuary. She said the questions must be asked to chief wildlife warden Kashmir in this regard.

Deputy Commissioner Shopian, Muhammad Aijaz told Kashmir Reader that they (contracting agency) have legally acquired land. “Mughal road was also built through the same area. Did the road come into existence by itself,” he asked.

When asked the blasting was against the laws of wildlife sanctuary, and against the orders of Supreme Court, he dropped the call.

Earlier massive blasting was conducted by Mughal road contractors, who razed the green meadows and mountain passes through the sanctuary.

Regional Wildlife Warden Kashmir, Raashid Naqash told Kashmir Reader that that he has asked the concerned authorities to submit a report. “I have asked the concerned authorities to submit a report regarding the violations in Hirpora wildlife sanctuary and they will submit it by Monday,” he said.