In a bid to prevent bird kills, the Wildlife Council will draft standards for power lines in protected areas
New Delhi: Well-known as a deadly trap for birds, power lines also present other environmental hazards — as the land cleared for their installation being an easy conquest for invasive species that could harm the environment.
It is to mitigate these threats that the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (SC-NBWL) decided that guidelines should be drafted for the management of transmission lines in protected areas. Future proposals to lay transmission lines in these areas must also be submitted with a management plan.
The committee has also approved a number of projects in protected areas and their ecologically sensitive areas in its last meeting, held on December 31. The minutes of the meeting were published last week.
The transmission line suggestion was made by NBWL member Dr HS Singh who said: “Steps should be taken to control the growth of weeds like lantana (an invasive species) that are beginning to grow in the area cleared for the installation of transmission lines,” according to the minutes.
He added that since the transmission lines are 10 meters or more above the ground, that “trees up to 5m tall” and “shrubs and grasses” such as aloe vera, Agaveand Commiphora should be planted there.
Transmission lines are also responsible for a large number of bird deaths — one lakh per year, according to a 2018 report by the Wildlife Institute of India.
UD Singh, another member of the NBWL, “suggested that the views of experts in the transmission line industry should be taken into account when developing the guidelines”, adding that “the problem of bird mortality due to to transmission lines should also be taken into account when developing guidelines”. say the minutes.
The committee decided that information would be collected on protected areas that contain transmission lines and sent to the NBWL and the Wildlife Institute of India to develop guidelines.
“The Standing Committee also decided that in the future, all proposals for the laying of transmission lines submitted for its consideration should be accompanied by a management plan for the area below the transmission line,” the lawsuit states. -verbal.
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More projects in “strategic” interests
The NBWL has also approved a series of projects in protected areas and their Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZs) for their “strategic importance”.
In August, the NBWL had approved 10 roads on the Indochina border for customs clearance at Changthang Shrine in Ladakh, at the request of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP).
Now, the Standing Committee has approved four more projects, totaling over 400 hectares (ha) in Changthang Sanctuary — a 1,400 m². km park which is home to the Tibetan wild ass, black cranes and other rare animal species.
The new projects include a 96.04 km road between the villages of Hanle and Chumar in Ladakh, and the construction of three border outposts.
The NBWL has also approved the diversion of 58.49 ha of forest land for a road in the Dibang Wildlife Sanctuary. A committee headed by NBWL member R. Sukumar inspected the site and drafted a report with mitigation measures and recommendations, on the basis of which the standing committee approved the project. However, this report is not publicly available.
“I had marked this file as confidential because it may contain sensitive information regarding military camps, etc. But the area is huge and there is not a single road, so the jawans have to walk for days to reach the border outposts. It will reduce that distance a bit,” Sukumar told ThePrint.
The Standing Committee has given the go-ahead for the establishment of a National Ayurvedic Institute under the Ecologically Sensitive Default Zone (ESZ) of Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary in Haryana. As requested by the AYUSH ministry, the institute will need 8 ha of land in the ESZ, 2.3 km from the boundaries of the sanctuary.
The committee granted its approval subject to the implementation of a conservation plan of Rs 5 crore, among other guidelines.
According to the ten-year plan downloaded on the Parivesh portal — where project proposals are submitted for forest, environmental and wildlife clearings — the institute will hold “awareness” workshops and quizzes for local residents to “appreciate” wildlife and will plant trees along the project boundaries.
The plan also allocated funds for “habitat development works” for pangolins and other animals found in the sanctuary, but does not detail how this will be done.
Deputy Wildlife Chief Warden Panchkula had raised a objection to the institute’s plan in October 2021, saying, “It lacks financial implications and mitigation measures to be taken (for wildlife conservation in the 10 km buffer zone and the EZA zone).”
The Haryana Wildlife Council has however decided to recommend the project to the NBWL Standing Committee a month later, as the project would also require environmental clearance.
“If the project was clearly of a polluting nature, we would have intervened, as if it were a coal mine or a thermal power station. This project came on the recommendation of the state. In this case, the ESZ was not notified, leaving a huge area of land around the protected area,” Sukumar said.
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)
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