The Karnataka High Court has stayed felling of trees for the widening of National Highway 4-A between Belgavi and Goa. The road widening work is being carried out in Forest area of Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary. A total of 14 kilometers of proposed four lane road passes through thick forest, which is home to elephants, tigers, leopards, black panthers and king cobra. Many sections of this road is critical wildlife corridors.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S R Krishna Kumar, passed the direction while hearing a petition filed by actor and environmentalist Suresh Heblikar and others. The court has also asked the Union Government to inform on the next date of hearing October 31, how many trees have already been cut and whether it has permission to do so. Advocate Prince Isac appearing for the petitioners argued that there is no permission obtained for felling of trees and even though the authority is claiming that around 23,000 trees would be cut for the widening of the highway, it is estimated by the petitioners that around one lakh trees, would be cut.
As per the petition Western Ghats stretch in Karnataka is home to one of the last remaining tropical wet evergreen forests. Western Ghats is a biodiversity hotspot and has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The flora in Very dense forest of Eco Class I belong to the rare, endangered and threatened species that are difficult to be raised and planted. Also, CAMPA does not consider any diversity conservation of tree species that are lost due to felling. It is done with timber species as a goal and is eventually executed as a monoculture of timber species elsewhere. Thus, the ecological services lost due to such large-scale felling of diverse very dense forest is never compensated for by the user agency nor by the Forest department.
Further the petition says "While NH4A is from Belgaum to Goa, there is no approval for road widening that passes through Mollem Wildlife Sanctuary and Mahaveer National Park in Goa State. As per the decision taken by the Standing Committee of the NBWL, on 20th March 2013, the approval of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and concerned State Boards for Wildlife in case of non-Tiger Reserve for other PAs., must be obtained. Tree cutting in Karnataka prior to procuring approval for widening in Goa inside two Protected Areas is a hurried effort to conceal the illegality behind the act in Karnataka.
The petition also points that unscientific feeling of trees of such large scale would mean risking the lives of the local villages to the wrath an impact of large scale landslides and devastation in the name of connecting urban cities, across two states.