Road Through The Neora Valley National Park
April 2011: The Neora Valley National Park is one of the last remaining hill forests of the Eastern Himalaya. However, as in many other parts of the country, a proposed road through the park could soon result in its tranquility being lost forever.
The Indian army has proposed a road through the northern boundary of the Neora Valley National Park which is contiguous with the Pangolakha Wildlife Sanctuary in Sikkim and Toosra Strict Nature Reserve in Bhutan. The park is home to more than 31 species of mammals including several Schedule I species such as the tiger, leopard, red panda, wild dog, serow, marbled cat and clouded eopard. With some 265 bird species recorded here, these forests are also classified as an Important Bird Area. The park falls within the restricted Range Species Site – the Eastern Bird Area, Eastern Himalaya and the Restricted Assemblages Biomes, Sino Himalayan Temperate Forest and Sino Himalayan Subtropical forest. Road construction could impact species as rare as the Satyr Tragopan, Blood Pheasant, Ward’s Trogon, Long-billed Wren Babbler, Sikkim Wedge-billed Wren Babbler and the Rusty-bellied Shortwing.
The proposed route will also pass along the eastern boundary of the Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary for a stretch of four kilometres which will affect the movement of one-horned rhinos, elephants and gaur as well as smaller mammals that use the area to move to the adjacent forests of the Jalpaiguri Division. The road also cuts through the Rachela Comp. No. 13 of the Neora Valley National Park, which is a part of the core of the national park and also Rhenok Comp. No. 5 and Rhenok Comp. No. 4b which are prime wildlife habitats.
As a vital tiger habitat, the Neora Valley forests must be extended the best of protection. Any project that could cause changes in the dynamics of this biodiversity rich forest must not be permitted. The tiger continues to thrive here only because of the relative inaccessibility of these forests. Apart from the disturbances during construction, a road will permanently destroy the peace and sanctity of the habitat and open it up for nefarious activities. The Northeast is already a hotbed of the illegal wildlife trade and a road could further attract poachers and timber smugglers.
According to Biswapriya Rahut, Secretary, Society for Preservation and Awareness of Wildlife and Nature, Jalpaiguri, there is ample scope for the Indian army to sketch out a viable alternative route into Sikkim to reach the India-China international border without disturbing this unique and fragile ecosystem as one old cart road already exists from Bagrakote to Rhenok in Sikkim via Chuikhim – Nimbong – Kaffer. Developing the existing road will not only help protect the wilderness but will also save millions of rupees for the government.
With inputs from Mousumi Dutta, www.jalpaiguribirds.com
Write a polite letter to the President of India and the Head of the Armed Forces stating the following points:
Sanctuary readers can sign a petition online http://www.petitiononline.com/neora/petition.html
Pratibha Devisingh Patil
General V. K. Singh,