Apex wildlife body shoots down BSF plan for a road in Rann of Kutch

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The National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has told the Border Security Force (BSF) it would not discuss further a proposed road aligned through the Great and Little Rann of Kutch (GRK & LRK) unless the paramilitary force promised in writing it would follow all conditions imposed by scientists who inspected the site in 2011.

The NBWL's stand effectively means the road has to bypass both Ranns and not go through them as originally planned.

"The DIG , BSF (Operations), requested the committee members for an on-site visit to ascertain the strategic requirement of the proposed alignment of road in border patrolling. The committee, after a discussion, was of the opinion that the BSF should submit a report on willingness for compliance of the conditions stipulated in the site inspection report. The matter would be only be taken up for discussion after the receipt of the report from the BSF," said the minutes of the 27th meeting of the NBWL, which was made public Friday.

The 225-km proposed road is to start from Gaduli in western Kutch (just 30 kms south-west of Kori creek), run through both the Kutch Desert Wildlife Sanctuary and the Wild Ass Sanctuary, Khadir Bet (island), through the "chicken's neck", where Great and Little Rann meet, and on to Santalpur in the northern periphery of the LRK.

It is being undertaken by the State Road and Buildings Department and supported by the tourism and home departments as well as the BSF. The state wildlife board had cleared the proposal with certain conditions in 2009, but the NBWL, the country's final authority on all matters relating to projects in and near sanctuaries and national parks, has refused to give its nod.

The apex board, in fact, sent a team of three scientists to investigate the road's potential environmental impacts in September 2011. The team unanimously recommended against about 50 kms of the road aligned through the GRK and LRK, fearing it would destroy Flamingo City (India's largest and oldest breeding site for greater and lesser Flamingos), Tangdi Bet (the main refuge of the endangered wild ass during monsoon months) and the mangrove grove at Shravan Kavadia (a unique inland mangrove region).

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