Nature & Wildlife

‘Canopy walk’ faces a hurdle

PANAJI: When the Tourism Department built a 233-metre suspended path from Kuveshi to Dudhsagar Falls, 30 feet above the ground amidst trees, in the pristine forest around the Kali Tiger Reserve, officials hoped to attract more tourists.

The bridge was built at a cost of ₹84 lakh with the intention of offering visitors a glimpse into the lives of birds and insects. It issued advertisements in which ministers were juxtaposed with pictures of the pathway, which is a first-of-its-kind initiative in the Kali Tiger Reserve.

However, the Forest Department is not happy because processes under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 have not been followed.

P.S. Somashekar, Regional Inspector General of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), said the authority had been kept out of the loop. “We have a copy of the project plans, but we didn’t know that the project was completed,” he said.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests has asked the Forest Department how the project could have been executed without proper permissions.

“The project was not approved by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF). We will investigate how they went ahead,” said C. Jayaram, Additional PCCF (Wildlife).

The inquiry will also ascertain the impact of the ropeway system on the local ecology and the future of the project.

Documents collected through Right to Information reveal that the proposal was executed by the reserve- and circle-level officials, with the Tourism Department paying for the expenses in 2015-16.

Environment activists plan to move the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee requesting a detailed investigation. “Documents show that progress reports of the project were sent to the PCCFs. How can senior officials claim ignorance?” said an activist.

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