The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that while the conservation of tigers is important, it cannot be done at the cost of the general economic development of the country, The Times of India reported.
The apex was critical of NGOs, including Conservation Action Forum, which had challenged a development project, i.e. a four-laning of the 37km stretch of NH-7 between Nagpur and Jabalpur passing through Pench tiger reserve.
The TOI report further states, "The issue had led to a tug of war between the Nagpur bench of Bombay high court, which had suo motu taken up the issue of widening of NH-7, and the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which claimed to have sole jurisidiction over environmental issues. Both passed orders that ran counter to each other, leaving the officials of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in a Catch-22 situation. If they obeyed one, they committed contempt of another."
Settling the conflict the SC said that the HC will handle the issue.
A bench of Chief Justice TS Thakur and justices AK Sikri and R Banumathi 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."
While telling the NGOs to inform the HC about measures that need to be taken for conservation of tigers, the apex court also asked why they did not act against poaching.
According to TOI, the bench said, "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 said.