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As the two states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh signed
the controvertial Ken-Betwa linking
project (KBLP), considered as an environmental catastrophe, the cost of the
trees proposed to be cut is anybody’s guess, especially after an expert
committee  report submitted in the
Supreme Court recently. Besides, the best of tiger country will also be
submerged and disconnected from the Panna national park which is all set to
bear the brunt. All the good work of the tiger reintroduction programme in the
tiger reserve is going to be flowed down in the project water. The number of
tigers in Panna varies somewhere around 65-70 which includes 20
cubs.

 

Priceless Ecology to
be Submerged

A five member committee of experts for the first time set a
guideline on the valuation of trees and 
submitted a report in the Supreme Court in a case related to West Bengal
where 356 trees were required to be felled. The committee told the apex court
that a heritage tree with a lifespan of well over 100 years could be valued at
more than Rs 1 crore. A tree’s monetary worth is its age multiplied by
Rs74,500. The committee added that a heritage tree with a lifespan of well over
100 years could be valued at more than Rs 1 crore — and that the monetary value
of a project, for which hundreds of trees are cut, is sometimes far less than
the economic and environmental worth of the felled trees. The total counting of
trees in the proposed submergence area of KBLP has not been done but a sample
survey by the state forest department has estimated that about 72 lakh trees
above 20 cm girth at breast height would submerge in the national park area and
this number may go up to about 12 lakh stems when young poles  and established sapling are accounted.
“Equally high number of trees will be cut or lost in the forest areas outside
the national park. Thus, considerable quantification of carbon stored as
biomass would be released once the dam is constructed, in addition to loss of
vegetation diversity.  Now, one can imagine
value of the trees”, a government report said.

 

Also read: UNESCO’s “Hope for the Planet” Cry
doesn’t Gel with Ken Betwa Project

In the West Bengal case, the committee recommended ,in case
trees must be removed, the first endeavour should be to relocate them, making
use of modern technology, and if  there
is no other option but to cut them; it also added that planting five saplings in
lieu of one tree was not good enough since a 100-year-old tree cannot be
equated with a few fresh saplings. It recommended that for a tree with small
crown size, 10 saplings should be planted; 25 saplings for a tree with medium
crown size; and 50 saplings for a tree with large crown size. Crown is part of
the tree from which branches grow above the trunk. Can this be done in the
environmental disaster that is all set to unfold in Panna ?

Cliffs and Gorges,
all go Under Water

The project involves construction of a large dam at Daudhan
village and a 2 km tunnel right inside the core area of  Panna tiger reserve situated in the semi-arid
region of the Vindhyan mountain range spread over the Panna and Chhatarpur
districts in the northern part of Madhya Pradesh. The terrain here consists of
extensive plateaus, rocky cliffs, gorges, caves and rock crevices creating
critical habitats for breeding and resting of the key species such as tiger,
leopard, hyena, sloth bear and several species of vultures.

 

Also read: Panna landscape Needs 2 More
National Parks, Not Satellite Tiger Collaring

 

The forests along Ken
and its tributary form a significant part of the catchment area of the river.
Ken Gharial Sanctuary and adjoining forests of the national park offer certain
compactness of the habitat. All this is going to be submerged forever, an
irreparable loss that can never be compensated.

Project or the Park ? 
Shivraj goes for the KBL

BREATHLESS- Hunted and Hounded,
the Tiger Runs for its life”, a book on tiger crisis released last
year,  dedicated one full chapter “ The
Drowning Panna and Dams of Doom” on the KBLP. The book said, “  Daudhan is the first dam which is all set to
submerge the green- laboratory where the world’s first ever successful
experiment of tiger reintroduction plan was experimented and executed. The
imminent submergence includes almost 90 sq km area of the Panna
National park .This also includes the best of tiger habitat inside the park.
Since independent studies have shown that the cost benefit ratio is next to
par, given what will be lost, it is hard to see arguments in its favour.”

Also read: From Unknown Tigress of Kanha to Mother of Panna:
The Untold Story of T2

Referring to  the
haste shown by  the Chief minister
Shivraj Singh Chouhan while presiding over a meeting of  the State Wildlife Board,  the book said , “ Regardless of stiff
opposition from some non official members, the state wildlife board meeting in
Bhopal in 2015 , the chief minister Shivraj Singh pushed the project.
Amidst statements from one of the board ,”The nation will have to decide
whether to have the project or the park, we cannot have both”, the CM opted for
the project”.

In unequivocal terms, some board members opposing the
project said, “ the project will mean the end of Panna”. The book also says
that ,” At a time of  global warming,
successive governments are still pushing the environmentally unviable  projects like KBLP, a scheme that is certain
to spell death –knell for the Panna tiger reserve.“

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