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Friday, May 11, 2012

Forest Department red flags Arkacheri work

Vijay Pinjarkar, TNN | May 11, 2012, 05.32AM IST NAGPUR: After initial hesitation, the Buldhana forest division has finally asked the irrigation department to stop work on Arkacheri, a minor irrigation project that falls within 10 km of Melghat tiger reserve (MTR). The letter was issued by Buldhana deputy conservator of forests Dilip Gujela on the direction of Mohan Jha, chief conservator of forests (CCF), Amravati Circle, who made it clear that although project site is non-forest land, it falls within 10 km of MTR and hence needed prior permission from National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). Gujela wrote on May 7 to executive engineer of minor irrigation department asking to stop the work but sources said irrigation department actually increased the pace of work. The matter is already being heard in the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court through a PIL filed by Sonala villagers. Irrigation department chief engineer R B Shukla claimed work had been stopped but asserted that the site was beyond 10 km periphery of the tiger reserve and was not even in the buffer zone. When asked about forest department letter, he said, "I will let you know." Gujela said he had asked the irrigation department to stop work till permission was received from wildlife department. A report on Arkacheri has been submitted to the CCF Mohan Jha. The project violates provision of Environment Protection Act (EPA) 1986 which is not being implemented seriously by the forest department. "As per provisions of the Act, irrigation department has to submit a proposal to wildlife department and take permission as the project site is within 10 km of tiger reserve," Gujela said. The irrigation department plans to divert Ar river into Kacheri nala. Ar comes from Wan wildlife sanctuary. As per the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, diversion of river water from a protected area is prohibited without wildlife department permission. The Rs 47.51 crore Arkacheri will irrigate 1,900 hectares land but farmers claim over half of the command area land was already under well irrigation. Villagers of Sonala, where Arkacheri is coming up, said they never demanded the project as Wan medium irrigation project was situated just 5 km upstream of Arkacheri and was an assured source of water for the wells falling in submergence of the new project. Besides, the new site has no hard stratum generally needed to construct a dam. Ravikiran Govekar, assistant inspector general (AIG) with NTCA's Nagpur regional office, said he had written to MTR officials and was awaiting reply.

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