Sanctions road through Dachigam National Park
Violating the wildlife norms, the Government of India (GoI) has sanctioned a road through a protected wildlife area of Dachigam National Park, posing a serious threat to flora and fauna in and outside the park.
As per the documents available with Rising Kashmir, GoI has sanctioned a road from New Theed to Mulnar area of the Dachigam Park.
According to the order issued by Chief Engineer, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY), the road has been sanctioned under Phase X, Stage-I, Package No JK13- 108 for a length of 3.2 km against the sanctioned cost of Rs 78.27 lakh.
“Accordingly, the process for land acquisition has been initiated by the concerned collectorate by issuing notice under section 4 (1) vide No, DCS/LAS/1797/630- 44 dated March 13, 2018. The road shall connect the village Mulnar which comes under targeted habitation of less than 500 (greater than 360 souls) where an already very steep kacha road exists. The habitats are very much eager and insist for early completion of the road, However, this office has received some objections from certain quarters regarding the construction of this road. It is requested that the protected wildlife area of Dachigam National Park may be demarcated and No Objection Certificate furnished to this Department for proceeding ahead with the work,” the order reads.
The documents suggested that the Chief Engineer of PMGSY has not got any NOC from the Wildlife department which is necessarily required for the construction of the road.
The map, which is in possession of Rising Kashmir, clearly shows that the department has demarcated the road through the protected area of Dachigam National Park and at many places the work has been started.
Chief Engineer, PMGSY, Ghulam Geelani accepted that the demarcated points where from the road would be constructed had to be realigned as some of it comes under the protected area of the Dachigam National Park.
“We have not started the construction of road inside the park. We are realigning earlier demarcated areas as it falls under protected area. The construction of the road is going on outside the park. But the rest of the work will be started after we realign the map,” he said.
Imtiyaz Ahmad Lone, Wildlife Warden, Dachigam National Park, said they had recently demarcated the land and sent it to the Chief Engineer PMGSY.
“Besides, this is the buffer of the national park. The road construction is going on the buffer zone which is adjacent to the park,” Lone said.
He said some vested interests had occupied the State land and were against the construction of the road.
“They feel that they might have to evacuate the land. We have no knowledge about the road leading to Mulnar hamlet. We don’t know whether the road has been approved or not, and on what basis they are constructing it,” Lone said.
He said the Chief Engineer of PMGSY had made a plan for road construction without taking the NOC from the Wildlife department.
“The map is prepared jointly by Forest department demarcation team and wildlife department which are signed by Chief Engineer of PMGSY,” Lone said.
As per the official sources, the Department of Wildlife Protection had faced a lot of political pressure from some of the former ministers.
The ministers asked the department to change the map so that the construction of the road would not be stopped.
But, environment experts believe that the road is in violation of the Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1978.
They say that the road would only destroy the protected area of the national park.
G A Bhat, a retired professor of Environmental Science department of the University of Kashmir said the construction of road should be stopped as it was a big threat to the wildlife.
“Like the sheep farm area, Mulnar, is a core area for Hangul and part of Dachigam Park. All the concerned departments are ‘hand in glove’ in violating the Wildlife Protection Act. They are destroying the protected Dachigam Park,” said Bhat, who is one of the campaigners against the Mulnar hamlet and the road.
He said there were already three roads connecting Mulnar.
“There is no need to construct the fourth road. It is a complete violation of the J&K Wildlife act. They should restore the core are of Hangul as soon as possible,” Bhat said.
He said the Mulnar area of Dachigam was completely a dense forest and core area for Kashmiri Hangul.
“In 1967, the land was allotted to some people who had vacated the land during 1900. Around 694 kanal of land was allotted by the former chief minister, Ghulam Muhammad Sadiq. But at that time Pathawaris allotted around 1400 kanal of land instead of 694 kanal,” he said.
Another expert, wishing not to be named, said the road proposed by Chief Engineer of PMGSY had taken a route from the periphery of the wildlife area.
He said the demarcation done by the wildlife department was questionable.
“What was the actual alignment of the land?” he asked. “They are encroaching upon the wildlife area.”
Even, the Environment Policy Group (EPG) on Wednesday lodged a formal complaint at the office of Sub Divisional Police Officer at Nehru Park in Srinagar, against the illegal construction of the road from New Theed to Mulnar.
Not only the road construction but the Mulnar village located inside the Dachigam National Park is posing a serious threat to the sanctuary's wildlife.
According to sources, the major part of the park was under illegal occupation of Mulnar villagers.
“In 1995, people from Rajouri, Poonch, Lar, Kalakote, Ganderbal encroached the land. They started illegal constructions there. They constructed houses and made a hamlet. They did not have any allotment. They illegally occupied the land and extended it to 3000 kanals,” they said.
They said there were more than 84 households in Mulnar village and they had made permanent settlements there.
“They have constructed a Masjid and have designated land for the graveyard. They are from Jammu,” sources said.