Sanctuary hub of corruption, experts
SHOPIAN: Wildlife protection department is waiting for 2.47 crore compensation from SETERLITES, contracting agency that are laying a transmission line through Hirpora wildlife sanctuary. The department has also sought Rs 50 lacs from Mughal Road authorities.
Wildlife Warden Shopian, Ifshana Dewan, said that these agencies have not paid a single penny yet, despite several show cause notices to these agencies.
The 16.85 kilometer transmission line occupies 77.51 hectares of the sanctuary’s land while the 30 kilometer Mughal Road impacts much more area than what falls under the road because the constriction agencies dumped waste materials on sanctuary land.
On the ground, it seems that the contracting agencies are using the sanctuary land as private property. “They (agencies) had taken to mean ‘bought’ from the ‘permission’ granted to them. It is a sensitive area and those who had violated the guidelines must be severely punished as per the Jammu and Kashmir wild life act,” an expert said.
Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary, an adobe for dozens of rare and endangered animals, is also considered a medicinal plant heaven where plants like Jogi-Badshah, considered the crown of medicinal plants, grows.
Wildlife protection department officials said that they have issued, from time to time, show-cause notice to the executing agencies. But people question whether the department’s job was limited to issuing notices only?
A wildlife expert asked why the department allowed the agency damage green slopes by constructing roads? The contracting agency for the transmission line made at least 30 small roads in the sanctuary.
A top official from the wildlife protection department told Kashmir Reader that they were under huge pressure from higher officials, who want the completion of 400 KV Samba-Amargrah transmission line.
Insiders say that the permission to the agencies like STERLITES was given after the agencies agreed to follow the guidelines, which included minimum use of machinery. During 2016, power lines contracting agency build about 30 small roads to carry the construction material on motor vehicles, which was a naked violation of wildlife act.
Regional wildlife warden Kashmir told Kashmir Reader that they have stopped the work on power lines, but routine constructions are going on. In Dobijan area, the contracting agency has chopped at least 20 Pine trees and were raising bunds there for transmission towers.
Range officer, Dildar Ahmad, said that chopping of these pines trees was granted to the contractors in the permission from the authorities.
The report says that they (wildlife protection department) had mandated a committee to raise the damage assessment bills and recommend necessary restoration measures. The committee later submitted a report on the damages by the agencies to the tune of 2.47 corer.
Dewan, wildlife warden, said that due to paucity of staff they fail to watch this 341 square kilometer sanctuary. “I have deputed a team to check the progress of work, which was stopped by us because of the violations done by the agencies. We are taking every possible measure to safeguard this sanctuary,” she said. She added that steps are being taken to stop the livestock grazing in the premises of sanctuary.
Sources from the area told Kashmir Reader that two of the low rank field officials from wildlife protection department are in a league with the contracting agencies. In 2016, these officials took advantage of mass uprising and didn’t inform the department about violations within the premises of the sanctuary.
Besides other violations, a telecommunication company has also laid their cable lines through the premises of sanctuary without the permission of concerned department. An officer from the wildlife department said that they several times stopped the work carried out by the telecommunication company, but “they were doing that again and again”.