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TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
I am aware that the National Board for Wildlife has given virtual clearances for two projects - a transmission line and a highway – Goa’s largest protected areas - in Mollem National Park and Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary. These clearances took place during the Covid-19 lockdown. As a concerned citizen of India, I urge you to reject this hastily planned decision without due process and data-deficient Environment Impact Assessment studies.
The proposal to widen the highway within the protected area involves not just widening of certain sections of the highway, but creating a new highway on viaducts in pristine and hitherto untouched parts of the wildlife sanctuary and national park. This proposal involves the cutting of 12,097 trees and the diversion of 31.015 ha of protected forest area (24.265 in the National Park and 6.75 in the WLS).About 3.15 km of the transmission line is proposed to be constructed through the Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary. As per the application, the line would be 46 mtr in width, requiring a diversion of 11. 54 HA of area from the wildlife sanctuary and involves the cutting of 12,097 trees. The third project, the Castlerock - Kulem Railway Doubling which was put forth by the 56th NBWL meeting held on the 17th of December, 2019 cutting through 26 km of Kali Tiger Reserve, Karnataka and Bhagwan Mahaveer Sanctuary, in Goa
The Western Ghats is one of the most biodiverse locations on the planet, listed as a Biodiversity Hotspot. Bhagwan Mahaveer Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park is a part of a larger contiguous patch of forest and a major tiger corridor between Goa and the adjoining Kali Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and is a treasure trove of flora and fauna.
Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and Mollem National Park together constitute the largest protected area in the state of Goa spanning 240 sq. km. All three projects require diversion of forest land from this single protected area falling entirely in the Western Ghats which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Direct sightings as well as camera trapping has found presence of Schedule-I and Schedule-II endangered species such as the tiger, dhole, mouse deer, gaur, and Indian Pangolin. This area also has a newly discovered dragonfly species, so far known from no other location in Goa.
In addition to these species, the sanctuary is also home to more than 70 species of mammals, 235 bird species, 219 species of butterflies, 44 species of fish, 45 species of reptiles and 27 amphibians, 80 species of dragonflies, 75 species of ants, 721 species of plants, 24 species of orchids, at least 43 species of fungi and 18 species of Lichens.
At a time when COVID-19 has alerted us to how the loss of forest land and biodiversity can increase zoonotic diseases, when climate change related natural disasters threaten the stability of our lives and our economy, when India is reeling under a severe economic crisis due to this unprecedented pandemic, we question the decision to approve these projects.
It is your duty to protect and conserve this unique biodiversity hotspot. I count on you to uphold the integrity of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change by rejecting these three destructive projects in these irreplaceable, precious habitats.