National Wildlife Board allows mines near sanctuaries with threatened species

While rejecting sections of a proposed road that it fears will disturb India's largest breeding site for flamingos in the Great Rann of Kutch, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) has recommended at least two other, albeit smaller, projects in the same sanctuaries. These include a mining project three kilometres from the home of species critically endangered in the state, such as Caracal and Great Indian Bustard, and in the vicinity of the country's sole marine national park.

At its 27th meeting in December (official minutes of which were made public last week), the country's apex authority on national parks and sanctuaries and their vicinities decided to recommend proposals for Jayprakash Associates Ltd's 400-hectare laterite mine at Baranda, which lies three kms from the Narayan Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary in Kutch. Referring to court orders and existing laws, the board decided the mine fell in an area beyond its jurisdiction.

The board, however, refused to immediately allow two larger proposed mines in the vicinity, saying the regional officer of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests must first check if conditions for environment protection are strictly followed.

These proposals include a 2186-hectare bauxite mine in Umarsar, which lies 4.4 kms from the sanctuary. The project proponent is the state-owned Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation. The other project is a 2831-hectare limestone mine in Harudi, which lies 4.8 kms from the sanctuary. The project proponent is Jayprakash Associates.

The Narayan Sarovar Sanctuary, near which these mines are proposed, is home to a small population of lynx-like, nocturnal caracals, bustards and wolves. The Gujarat Biodiversity Board classifies the first two as "critically endangered" while wolf is "vulnerable to extinction".

The wildlife board also recommended a 187-hectare bauxite mine at Mesava, proposed by the GMDC about three kms from the Marine National Park. It gave go-aheads to Gujarat Energy Transmission Corporation Ltd's (GETCO) proposal to lay transmission lines through parts of the Wild Ass Sanctuary. The lines are expected to ferry power from Mundra in coastal Kutch to Banaskantha in north Gujarat.

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