The National Wildlife Board provided clearance to a decade old long road in Gujarat.
The proposed road will connect Khadir Island with the rest of Kutch through a new route. It will join Ekal Village on the southern tip with the Bhambhanka village on the southern rim of Khadir Island. The distance will be reduced by around 60 miles.
Bhachau town is the headquarters of Bhachau taluka of Kutch district.
The proposed road will pass through Kutch desert sanctuary. It is a home to the Indian wild ass. The species is considered endangered by the International Union on Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
The clearance has come a decade after Gujarat government approved the road. Earlier in 2007-08, the state Govt had allotted Rs 40 crores for the project.
Gyanendra Sinha, principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) and chief wildlife warden of Gujarat said, “The road and buildings department had for the first time in 2009, seeking wildlife clearance for the road project. However, the NBWL rejected the proposal initially as the road was passing through some good habitat and required diversion. In 2017, the road and building department gave a revised proposal that was cleared by NBWL.”
The new proposal requires diversion of only around 24 hectares of forest land, he added
Lalsinh Madia, an executive engineer said that the revised proposal reduced the road from 36 meters to 12 meters with a 7-meter wide carriageway. The reduction brought down the land requirement.
The Ekal-Bambhanka road will be the 3rd major infrastructure project that will affect the Kutch desert sanctuary.
Khadir Island has a population of 10000 people. It is also home to the world-famous site of Harappan civilization. The existing road between Bhachau to Khadir via Rapar is about 170-km long.
Ramji Meria a resident of Chobari village in Ekal said “At present, villagers use a dirt track through the sanctuary to travel to Khadir or from Khadir to Bhachau. The sanctuary remains submerged during monsoon. An all-weather road is the only solution.”
Meria has been fighting for the road for a long time.