Friday, October 14, 2011

Road to Rann down Kutch heritage!

From The Daily pioneer

THURSDAY, 13 OCTOBER 2011 23:29

Should the proposed road of the Gujarat State Public Works Department (GSPWD) “said” to promote border security be approved at the cost of natural and cultural heritage at Rann of Kutch in Gujarat? This crucial decision is expected to be taken in a meeting of the Standing Committee of National Board For Wildlife (NBWL) on Friday.
According to experts, the proposal for the roadway threatens the rarest breeding grounds of flamingos in South Asia and the last surviving habitat of Indian wild asses besides a unique mangrove system and the Harappan site of Dholavira.
The GSPWD has maintained that the purpose of this road is to provide increased access to the Border Roads Organisation (BSF). It is about 30 to 40 km inland of a road running parallel to the fenced international border between India and Pakistan across the Rann of Kutch. But though it is the BSF that draws its own proposals for construction of frontier roads, in this case, the proposal has been mooted by the GSPWD.

Calling it the "Road to Disaster", wild life experts pointed out that north of the proposed road goes into the Hanj Bet or the 'Flamingo City,' located in the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary. Every year, thousands of greater and lesser flamingos reach here for breeding, forming the largest congregation of these species in the subcontinent.
"They nest nowhere else in South Asia, which is similar to the phenomenon of mass nesting of sea turtles on the Orissa coast", pointed out a member of NBWL on condition of anonymity. In fact flamingo city is the major reason for the creation of the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary, he added.
Further, the elevated road will also cross the Tangdi Bet, the last remaining habitat of the of the wild ass in the Great Rann. Once found in southern Iran, Afghanistan, and western India, this endangered species, is now seen only in Gujarat and small adjoining parts of Rajasthan, pointed out the experts.
The environmentalists further pointed out that south of the proposed road threatens the 7000 sq m Shravan Kavadia a rare mangrove system in the world. Located more than 100 km inland from the sea these extraordinary trees are known for their enormous stature.
Further up, the road will pass through a small but critically connecting link between the Little Rann with the Great Rann. The former is already cut off from the Gulf of Kutch by two highway bridges, a railway line and a water pipeline.
"Local fishermen are already complaining of reduced crustacean catch as a result of these obstructions. Adding to their woes, the alignment of the new road will sever the water inflow from the Great Rann with unforeseen implications for the fishing industry", said the experts.
Apart from the environmental hazards, the road will damage Dholavira, which is the fifth largest site of the Indus Valley Civilization in the subcontinent. "Considering the historical importance of this area, surprisingly, no clearance from the Ministry of Culture has been obtained", the sources pointed out.

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