"Tigers are important, but what happens to the movement of traffic?” Questions SC

New Delhi: The apex court on Wednesday jumped to resolve the tug of war between the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT), in regards to the expansion of a four-laning of the 37km stretch of NH-7 between Nagpur and Jabalpur passing through Pench tiger reserve.

It settled the conflict and said the HC would be the forum to deal with the road widening issue.

While favoring the decision of the High Court, the court said that tigers need to be conserved, but not at the cost of development of the country.

A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and justices AK Sikri and R Banumathi was highly critical of NGOs, including Conservation Action Forum, which had challenged the road-widening project on the ground that it would seriously impede the traditional migration routes of tigers in the reserve.

The bench said, "Tigers are important. But what happens to the movement of traffic? It is not the first time that a national highway is passing through a reserved forest. We are for protecting tigers. Tell us what are the mitigating factors that could be implemented by the project proponent so that tiger migration routes are not impeded."

"Have you all filed any PIL against poaching? Why don't you go and work with those people working at the ground level to protect tigers from poachers? You jump to litigation whenever there is a development project. File a PIL on how to prevent poaching. Real danger to tiger is not from road traffic but poachers," the bench added.

The bench told the NGOs to go before the HC and inform it about the measures that needed to be taken for conservation of tigers.

Attorney general Mukul Rohatgi said the HC had already asked the NHAI to construct three flyovers of a total length of 1.8 km so as to minimise disturbance of tiger migration routes.

News24 Bureau