Submitted by Editor on Mon, 2016-08-08 13:06 Bengaluru: A large stretch of tree cover is all set to be axed for a road project along the Karnataka –Goa highway in Belagavi district. In December 2015, the Bengaluru-based southern zonal Regional Empowered Committee of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on December 2015 approved the widening of National Highway (NH-4A) in Belagavi and Uttara Kannada Districts, which cuts through Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary (DWS). The road-widening, which was kept in abeyance for sometimes, has now been given the nod. The committee had earlier mentioned that part of the area which falls within Dandeli wildlife Sanctuary will be heard only after the user agency gets an approval from the Supreme Court. A major matter of concern is that 37,862 trees in the region will be felled and the environment activists here worry about the outcome. “This will be a disaster. We have already lost a huge green cover. This is the only region which still has a good green cover. After the previous year’s drought-like conditions, people are more sensitive towards ecological destruction,” said Uday Kumar Desai, an environment activist near Belgaum. Interestingly, Dr A N Yellappa Reddy, a member of the committee, had raised similar concerns. During the meeting, he said the massive tree felling would cause irreversible damages in the region. “Road surface temperature will increase. It virtually fragments the forests. The wildlife in this region is already facing serious threats and animal death is on a rise,” he said. He had earlier pointed out that there was no Environment Impact Assessment or public hearing for the project. But the committee noted that concerns expressed by Dr Reddy are not significant as it was already an existing road and a developing nation ccould not ignore the need for good road network and approved the project. The only relief is that the committee has laid down certain conditions. The rider for the agency constructing the road is that it should make every possible effort to retain more number of trees as far as possible and felling may be done only if necessary, after obtaining permission from the concerned DFO. The committee has also directed that since the region is also an elephant corridor, care should be taken to ensure that their path is not obstructed. In a last effort, the, activists have now requested the State and Union Governments to widen the road without felling any trees at least within DWS. On the earlier occasions 21, Jan, 2015 the National Board for had approved Diversion of large patch of land from DWS for such widening. The present proposal for widening has been already recommended by the State Board for Wildlife. The Regional Inspector General of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), who conducted an inspection of the site along with National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) submitted his report to the Member Secretary, NTCA. The report states that there was no alternate road connecting Belagavi and Goa through Western Ghats. However, activists differ. The region is an important wildlife corridor connecting Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve, Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary and has unique wildlife diversity. When contacted, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife warden B J Hosamath said that he is yet to study details about the project.