The High Court of Bombay at Goa, on Wednesday, 8 September, restrained the Goa Public Works Department (PWD) from constructing an all-weather paver road from Collem to Dudhsagar in the Mollem National Park.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the Goa Foundation, which stated that the paver road will open the park up for tourists all year round, leaving no time for its recovery, which in turn, will cause irreversible damage to the flora and fauna of the sanctuary.
What Did the Court Say?
A division bench of Justice M S Sonak and Justice M S Jawalkar observed that the Goa PWD was carrying out the work without the approval of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL).
The bench further observed that as per the National Wild Life Action Plan, in case of any conflict between tourism and conservation interests of a PA (Protected Area), the paradigm for decision must be that tourism exists for the Protected Area and not vice versa.
In its interim order the court said that while the PWD can undertake routine repair and maintenance work of the kuchha road in the park, further construction of the proposed paver road cannot be carried out without the approval of the NBWL.
The construction of the paver was granted approval by the Chief Wildlife Warden under powers granted by Section 33 of the Wildlife Act, which enables the Warden to construct roads in the protected areas in the interest of the sanctuary and the wildlife.
The court, however, observed that "project at least prima facie involves the upgradation of the existing kuchha road to an almost pucca road, where, pavers will be placed on a bedrock of cement and concrete".
It also involves the conversion of a seasonal road to an all weather road, not to mention the various facilities proposed for tourists like parking facilities and toilets. All of this, the court said, "cannot be undertaken without the approval of the Wildlife Board".