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Balpakram land for road project cleared by MoEF: PWD

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SHILLONG, May 30: Following opposition to the state government’s move to divert 2.548 hectares of land from the ecologically-sensitive Balpakram National Park (BNP) in Garo Hills for the expansion of the State Highway 4 from Maheshkhola to Kanai, the state government has stated that the project is to widen and upgrade the existing road within the existing Right of Way (RoW), a portion of which falls within the BNP.
The Public Works Department clarified that the road has been in existence since decades. For the section between Maheshkhola to Kanai, a part of which passes through the edge of BNP, necessary clearances have been obtained under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, it said.
“In order to ensure protection and better management of wildlife habitats, the extant guidelines provide that road widening even within the existing RoW, if the same is falling within a national park or wildlife sanctuary, is required to be approved by the Standing Committee of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL). Accordingly, this proposal of NHIDCL has been given clearance based on approval from the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife after following due process,” the clarification said.
It was further informed that wildlife clearance is subjected to various conditions imposed by NBWL and other authorities in the state government to ensure that effects of the widening of the said road on the wildlife habitat is limited to the minimum, and compensated adequately.
“It is therefore clarified that the wildlife clearance accorded to the NHIDCL project in the BNP area is strictly based on the statutory provisions of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 (as amended) read with relevant court orders in this regard. It is once again reiterated that the project is for upgrade of the pre-existing road within the existing RoW with due compliance to all rules and regulations. This road is of critical importance for connectivity in the region and its upgrade is essential,” the clarification added.

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