Road not taken

  • 14/09/2004

The High Court of Jharkhand has passed an order banning bauxite-loaded trucks from driving through Palamau Tiger Reserve, Palamau Wildlife Sanctuary and Betla National Park at night. The advocate general of Jharkhand, arguing for the Forest Department, proved conclusively that the noisy, smoke spewing trucks were a threat to the local wildlife and environment. He also pointed out that an alternative route for the trucks existed, and proved that there had been a rapid decline in the wildlife population along the disputed route. The Jharkhand controversy began in September 2002, when the state's chief conservator of forests prohibited trucks loaded with bauxite or any other major mineral from plying in the Betla Wildlife Sanctuary at night. Immediately, the president of the Palamau Pramandal Khan Mazdoor Sangh (a labour union) filed a petition contesting the ban, claiming it had adversely affected livelihoods. He also claimed that the ban would only benefit the Peoples War Group and other extremist organisations in the area. Mortality records maintained by the Wildlife Protection Society of India reveal that between 1997 and 2002, at least 24 leopards, 5 tigers and 50 animals of various other species have been killed by these vehicles. These numbers represent only the recorded deaths.

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