Uttarakhand wildlife board on Tuesday recommended denotification of 14 elephant divisions in state which fall under the Shivalik Elephant Reserve. Forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat said the move is aimed at paving way for development activities and assured it “won’t affect” the movement to protect elephants and their habitat.
Sources said the move was particularly aimed at clearing hurdles coming in the way of expanding Dehradun airport that is located on Dehradun-Rishikesh Highway close to lush green Sal forest. The forest department has already given a go ahead for axing the trees.
In 2002, the then Congress government notified nearly 5,400 square kilometres of forest land falling under 14 forest divisions as ‘Shivalik Elephant Reserve’. It comprises forest divisions of Dehradun, Haridwar, Pauri, Nainital and Almora districts. Parts of Rajaji Tiger Reserve and Corbett Tiger Reserve are also included in these critical forest divisions.
“The then state government’s (Shivalik Elephant Reserve) notification did not had assent of either cabinet or assembly therefore wildlife board decided to de-notify the same,” Rawat told News18.
He said the move was necessary as the elephant reserve notification was hampering development activities, therefore, the state wildlife board headed by Chief Minister Trivendra Rawat unanimously took the decision.
Uttarakhand has close to two thousand elephants including 1,223 in Corbett Tiger Reserve and 311 in Rajaji Tiger Reserve. Experts believe the decision of wildlife board might result in increasing man-animal conflict in parts of state.