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‘Hold NH-17 plans till MoEF Karnala decision’


                                                                                                                       The Times of India, Mumbai, 20th January, 2015

Clara Lewis

MUMBAI: Activists have demanded that the expansion of the Mumbai-Goa national highway, or NH-17, in the vicinity of the Karnala bird sanctuary must be stayed till the Union ministry of environment and forests takes a final decision on the buffer zone around the sanctuary.

In December, the MoEF had issued a notification sanctioning an eco-sensitive zone around all protected areas, national sanctuaries and parks for a 10-km radius till it finally decides on the buffer zone.

In the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, this affects areas around the 14 sq km bird sanctuary at Panvel and the 103 sq km Sanjay Gandhi National Park in the city.

In August, the National Wildlife Board (NWLB) had approved the widening of NH-17 beyond 1 km on both sides from the boundary of the sanctuary. It had also directed the creation of speedbreakers and controlled movement of traffic on the stretch passing through the sanctuary, besides underpasses for movement of animals in the sanctuary.

The widening work is to be executed by the National Highways Authority of India and is expected to take up the work near the sanctuary in the next fiscal. It also proposed a flyover to go over the road through the core area to prevent congestion.

Advocate Godfrey Pimenta said the state government had proposed a buffer zone of a mere 100 metres around the sanctuary.

"As per the experts, the smaller the area of sanctuary, the greater the buffer zone. The MoEF has declared 5 km area around Sultanpur National Park near New Delhi as buffer zone even though a lower number of birds are found in the said sanctuary. So why this unjust treatment to the Karnala bird sanctuary?" he said.

Pimenta said the chief wildlife warden had suggested a buffer zone of 1.5 km around the sanctuary.