A committee constituted by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) to study the impact of Ken-Betwa river linking project on wildlife in Panna Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, has found that there are two breeding tigresses in the area worst affected by the project and that the project’s dam is likely to submerge habitat of vultures, sources said. Following the site visit, the committee is mulling over proposing reduction in the height of the 77m tall and 2031m wide Daudhan dam to be built for diverting Ken River or suggest a change in its existing alignment, a highly-placed sources said.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>“The dam is likely to submerge a part of the critical tiger habitat and also the rock escarpments or cleavages that are nesting sites of Long-billed vultures and even sloth bears,” said a source about the committee’s concerns.Camera trap images of the forest range in Panna that will be affected showed that it is home to two breeding tigresses that moves with its cubs and even adult male tigers move in the same area.The committee members, who are still drafting a report on their inspection, are moving on the issue cautiously to arrive at a ‘win-win’ situation as the project is critical for both wildlife conservation and irrigation, sources said. The inspection report is likely to be submitted in the coming days.The Rs9393 crore project proposed to divert water from Ken River located inside Panna tiger reserve to the Betwa river in the parched region of Bundelkhand. To do this, the National Water Development Agency will build a dam in Daudhan inside the core of Panna tiger reserve and divert the water through a 221-km long link canal to Betwa river. The Daudhan dam though will result in direct loss of 58.03 sq km, or 10 per cent of critical tiger habitat of Panna Tiger Reserve due to submergence and 50 per cent loss of existing unique habitat of highly endangered Vulture species, wildlife officials have said in past NBWL meetings.The NBWL’s wildlife clearance is of paramount importance for the mega-project as its environment clearance is dependent on it and the expert appraisal committee on river valley and hydroelectric projects made this clear in their past meetings. The project was turned down during the tenure of former environment minister Jairam Ramesh to protect Panna’s tigers but has been revived under the Narendra Modi-led government. Wildlife conservationists have warned against the project as Panna Tiger Reserve has already witnessed tigers vanish in the past due to poaching and natural causes. It is the only tiger reserve in the country and even globally to have successfully reintroduced tigers in a protected are. As on today, there are more than 30 tigers in Panna.
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