Bhandara/ Gondia (Maharashtra) [India], June 5 (ANI): The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has received a complaint that amid the lockdown period there was illegal construction of roads and tree cutting inside the premises of Navegaon-Nagzira Tiger Reserve (NNTR) situated in Bhandara and Gondia district.
Sachin Rangari, secretary of People for Animals (PFA) and Honorary district animal welfare officer of Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), who is the complainant, has shared exclusive photos and videos with ANI claiming that along with chopping of trees, murum sand was also excavated from the reserve with the JCB machine.
"According to the information we received, when all the government works were stopped during the lockdown, a total of 400 to 500 trees were cut in the Tiger Reserve. One JCB machine and two tractors were brought inside to carry out the work in the restricted areas. This is the violation of laws related to Tiger Conservation and Forest Conservation. These activities in core zone of tiger reserve violate the provisions of Forest Act, 1927, Forest Conservation Act, 1972 (amended in 2006). These illegal activities started from March onwards," he added.
"Some of the videos are from between April 20- May 25 and a couple of them are from between June 2 to 4. With the help of the JCB machines, around 55 to 60 trees were cut in compartment no.97. The age of those trees would be around 25 to 50 years. The areas in which trees were cut were the core areas of the forest and are the habitat of tigers. The authorities which are responsible for all these illegal activities must be suspended immediately," he said while speaking to ANI.
"Murum excavation was also done in Compartment No. 96, 98, 109, 120, 121, 125 and 126," Rangari added.
The ANI team also met Mahesh Bopche, the JCB Driver and a couple of forest labourers to confirm the same.
"The work of murum excavation took place there. We also dug the pits. This work went on for 15-20 days. We used JCB machine for digging and loading murum and constructing roads. Around 50-60 trees were uprooted," said the JCB driver while speaking to ANI.
"A lot of work was going on there. Around 300-400 bushes were cleared with the help of the JCB," said Ashok Kawale, a forest labourer.
"There were uprooting the trees and the excavation of Murum was going on. Around 200-300 trees were uprooted there with the help of the JCB machine," said Gajanan, another forest labourer.
Not only that, the two men who guarded the gate of the Tiger Reserve during the lockdown have also confirmed about the JCB machines and tractor being taken inside the Tiger Reserve during the lockdown period.
"In the month of April, two tractors and one JCB machine had gone inside. We were told that they were brought for carrying out some work," said Prakash Thakur, a forest worker.
"I do not know what work was carried out but on April 23 one JCB machine and two tractors came back," Brijlal Thawre said.
However, RM Ramanujam, Field Director of NNTR on the basis of preliminary investigation has denied any sort of illegal activity inside the Reserve and added that it was because of the storm that around 20 trees got uprooted on May 31.
"We have received a complaint regarding the core area of NNTR being destroyed. After receiving the complaint, the officials were sent for inspection to investigate. They roamed around the forest and found that the trees were uprooted because of the storm caused by cyclone on May 31. That day, there was a heavy downpour also. The person has mainly complained about the illegal cutting of trees in compartment no 97, where around 20-25 trees have fallen due to strong winds," Ramanujam said while speaking to ANI. (ANI)