Activist opposes diversion of Balpakram National Park land for road expansion

Shillong, May 26: Social activist Cherian Momin has opposed  the diversion of 2.548 hectares of land from the Balpakram National Park for expansion of road from state Highway 4 from Maheshkhola to Kanai.

In a statement, Momin said Balpakram holds immense religious and cultural significance for the Garo community.


“It serves as a sacred sanctuary where our traditions and heritage are deeply rooted. Any actions that threaten to desecrate these sacred grounds erode the cultural fabric of our community. The government’s approach to disregard our spiritual connection to this land is not only disrespectful but also reflects a blatant disregard for our indigenous rights.The ecological impact of this project cannot be overstated. The road expansion will disturb the habitat of numerous species and disrupt the ecological balance. It is well-documented that roads often become barriers for animals, leading to higher mortality rates from vehicle collisions. Construction activities, such as earth cutting and potential improper waste disposal, may lead to soil erosion and pollution of nearby water bodies, like the Kanai river, with cascading effects on the park’s biodiversity. Furthermore, this project could encourage encroachment into BNP, leading to deforestation and poaching”, he said.

Momin said short-term economic benefits from road expansion may not outweigh the long-term ecological costs. Disruption to BNP could compromise its status as a protected area, affecting tourism and conservation efforts. Improved access through the highway might lead to increased human activities in the region, heightening the risk of human-wildlife conflict, he said.

The notification issued by the Commissioner and Secretary of Forest & Environment Department, Pravin Bakshi, under the powers conferred by sub-section (6) of Section 35 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and after consultation with the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife, authorises the Chief Wildlife Warden, Meghalaya to grant a permit for the diversion. Despite several conditions recommended by the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife to mitigate the impact, the core issue of disturbing sacred and ecologically sensitive land remains unaddressed, he said.

“Given these significant concerns, I urge the government to reconsider its decision and engage in meaningful dialogue with our community to find mutually beneficial solutions that respect our religious beliefs and preserve the sanctity of Balpakram. Any further encroachment upon our ancestral lands will be met with fierce opposition and unwavering resistance.Choosing development over the protection of the environment, especially in an area as significant as Balpakram, sets a dangerous precedent. The state government must weigh the long-term ecological and cultural costs against short-term developmental gains. Balpakram’s uncharted jungles, massive cliffs, and powerful rivers are not only a treasure trove of biodiversity but also an integral part of our cultural and spiritual heritage”, he added.

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