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Centre Nod to NH Upgrade Plan Through Sanctuary Omitting Blackbuck Habitat, Corrigendum Issued

Days after the Union government cleared the way for diversion of land inside the Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary for upgrading NH-354, the state government issued a corrigendum noting that the proposal omitted the fact that the sanctuary was the only home for blackbucks.

Aniruddha Ghosal | News18.com@aniruddhg1

Updated:June 4, 2019, 11:58 AM IST
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Centre Nod to NH Upgrade Plan Through Sanctuary Omitting Blackbuck Habitat, Corrigendum Issued
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New Delhi: The clearance that the Centre gave for land being diverted from Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary or Abohar Blackbuck Sanctuary in Punjab was on the basis of a proposal that omitted its flagship species – the blackbuck, Punjab’s state animal.

On March 26, the Union government cleared the way for diversion of land inside the sanctuary for upgrading National Highway 354.

On April 9, the state government issued a corrigendum noting that the proposal omitted the fact that the sanctuary was the only home for blackbucks.

The proposal – diversion of 22 hectares of land passing through the sanctuary to upgrade the highway, including the construction of one bridge – was given “stage 1 clearance” after “obtaining the approval of the REC (Regional Empowered Committee)” of the Ministry for Environment and Forest on March 26 “on the basis of fact sheet of the project.”

However, while minutes of the meeting note that the proposal lists that the “proposed alignment is passing through Abohar Wildlife Sanctuary” and “involves felling of 6,369 trees and 5,425 plants”, it made no mention of blackbucks in the sanctuary.

In fact it read, “No rare/endangered/vulnerable and endemic species of flora and fauna have been found recorded in the area.”

Notified as the state animal of Punjab in 1989, the blackbuck’s presence in the state is now confined to the wildlife sanctuary – a unique habitat consisting of a mosaic of semi-arid plains, agricultural fields, barren lands, sand mounds and ridges.

The 2011 census for the protected species found that its numbers stood at 3,500. A survey conducted, jointly by the Punjab Biodiversity Board (PBB) and the Department of Forest and Wildlife Preservation, Punjab at the Sanctuary found that its numbers in 2017 stood at 3,273.

The next meeting of the REC is on June 6 and its agenda noted “the avoidable omission” in the minutes of the meetings.

It said, “However, there occurred an avoidable omission,” adding that the observation should have been, “No rare/endangered/vulnerable and endemic species of flora and fauna have been found recorded in the area except black buck.”

“Presence of "Black Buck" a Schedule-I animal under Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, should have been mentioned in the observation of the REC. This fact was brought forth by State Government via a corrigendum dated 09.04.2019 after the minutes of REC held on 26.03.2019 was approved by the Hon'ble Members,” it added.

blackbuck pdf

The sanctuary, the Punjab Tourism Department said, was unique “in that it is an open sanctuary comprising 13 Bishnoi villages. Herds of blackbucks, the indigenous antelope, with their distinctive twisted herds can be found wandering freely through the villages and even homes.”

“Considered sacred by the Bishnois, concerted efforts by this community have saved them from poaching,” it added.

However, the blackbuck’s population is increasingly threatened at the sanctuary by stray cattle competing with it for resources, attacks by feral dogs, habitat fragmentation due to changes in land use and cropping pattern in the past few years.

| Edited by: Sohini Goswami
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