Green brigade up in arms over YSR memorial
With environmentalists approaching the Prime Minister protesting against the Rs 3.15-crore YS Rajasekhara Reddy Memorial Park or Smruthi Vanam inside a protected wildlife sanctuary, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has sought a “detailed report” from the Andhra Pradesh Government.“The NTCA sought the complete factual details of the project from the AP Government a few days ago following PMO’s directions. Spread over 1,412 hectares of forestland, the project proposed by the Andhra Pradesh Forest department has already been approved by the State Cabinet,” sources said, adding “However, the NTCA is yet to receive the State Government’s response.” The Andhra Government plans to inaugurate the YSR Memorial Park at Pavuralagutta in the Nallamala forests at YSR’s first death anniversary next year at the same spot where the former CM died in a helicopter crash on September 2. However, the move led to non-official members of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) like Brijendra Singh, Valmik Thapar and Asad Rahmani to petition the PM. “The Gundla Brahmeswaram Sanctuary is contiguous to the Nagarajunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve and is part of the largest block of Eastern Ghats forest in the country, which is extremely rich in biodiversity,” they maintained. The sanctuary and the tiger reserve both are part of the 9,500 sqkm Nallamala forest area. The environmentalists further claimed that the memorial would not only cause destruction to the pristine wildlife in the region, but the State Government’s order to construct the Smruthi Vanam was in violation of the Wildlife and Forest Act since the habitat has flora and fauna of bio-economical value.“It’s a joint letter by us. In fact, instead of putting up a stone structure, the right approach should be to set up a national park, for better protection of wildlife, after YSR on the lines of the Rajiv Gandhi or Sanjay Gandhi National Parks. He was especially fond of peafowl and wanted to set up a breeding centre for them in his area,” Dr Asad Rahmani, one of the non-official members of the NBWL and Director of Bombay Natural History Society, told The Pioneer. The AP Government plans to set up a memorial stupa, a trekking path to the accident site, breeding centres, nature interpretation centre besides housing a peacock and wild animals at the YSR Memorial Park to “pay a befitting tribute” to the late CM and to make it a “tourist attraction”.An AP Forest department official, however, countered the environmentalists’ allegations saying though the notified memorial site is within the Nallamala forest area, it does not fall inside the sanctuary. The environmentalists said the project, non-forest activity, also doesn’t have the requisite clearances from the Union Environment Ministry.