New Delhi: A proposed road expansion project through India's best habitat for tigers has opened a can of worms.
The proposal has been rejected by the National Board of Wildlife, the National Tiger Authority and yet strangely the Amicus Curiae in a note to the Supreme Court of India has asked for clearing not just the proposed expansion but also the alternative alignment outside of the park.
The nine sq km stretch, a key link between Kanha and Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh, is in dense forest with even satellite images proving it.
But the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) as part of their plan to connect Srinagar and Kanyakumari wants to build a 56 km stretch in Madhya Pradesh which is proposed to cut through Pench National Park home to tigers, sambhar, spotted dears and many other endangered animals.
"The Pench landscape is absolutely critical for the future of tigers," says wildlife expert Belinda Wright.
Given the importance of the corridor the Central Empowered Committee and the Wildlife Institute of India suggested an alternate route which passes through Chindwara, the constituency of Highways and Transport Minister Kamal Nath.
But a document now available with CNN-IBN shows how the Amicus Curie has given a proposal which suggests constructing a road inside and outside the National Park despite contrary warnings by scientists.
"The NHAI has suggested an alternate proposal and in respect of which claims it has the approval of the State Board of Wildlife and the National Board of Wildlife," the noite by Amicus Curiae Harish Salve says.
A document of the Central Empowered Committee on Forests clearly states the National Board of Wildlife has rejected the project on 18.8.2008.
So why did the Amicus Curiae inform the court that the National Board had cleared the project?
Why are the two proposals being considered when the Central Empowered Committee has stated the road should be constructed outside the park and when scientists of the Wildlife Institute of India maintain the road would be devastating for tigers.
The note also includes another contentious suggestion that includes building 13 underpasses for the animals on the stretch of the road that passes through the National Park - a fact disputed by most tiger scientists.
"Only very small species like jackals will use the underpasses. It is highly unlikely that tigers will use these underpasses. So if you are highways that cuts across the tiger reserve, you are basically cutting your tiger reserve in half," adds Belinda
The case is expected to come up for hearing this Friday and experts say if the Amicus Curiae's note is considered seriously it could sign the death knell for this vital corridor for tigers.
Every top institution in the country has rejected the project which could sound the death knell for a vital tiger habitat.
Then why have the Amicus Curiae and the NHAI and the Ministry of Surface Transport still suggested building the road both outside and inside the national park.
If the government is really serious in its resolve to protect tigers, then why is Ministry of Transport building roads through India's prime tiger habitat?