Monday, March 31, 2014

Increase in Number of Online Petitioners Against the Building of Postal Road and Railway in Chitwan National Park

Sunset at Chitwan National Park

It has been recently reported that an online petition against a planned postal road and railway through Nepal's Chitwan National Park is increasing with thousands of people from around the world showing their disapproval of the two construction projects announced by the government early this year. The petition titled "Save Tigers and Rhinos in Chitwan National Park", which was created by an NGO called Animal Nepal, had compiled over 60,000 signatures on The petition addressed to the Prime Minister and Ministers of Finance, Roads, and Forests intends to stop the government from building the proposed postal highway and East-West electric railway line cutting through the park, and respect the privacy of the wildlife and conserve their habitat. The two projects under the government's national development order have attracted widespread criticisms from different groups, including animal welfare activists, conservationists, and politicians. Many people in the field of wildlife conservation asserted their concerns about the threats the projects will have on the animals' safety and their habitats in the national park. According to Margaret Ayton, a petitioner from the United Kingdom, the government's decision denies the very concept of wildlife conservation and that constructing the road and rail line through Chitwan National Park would change the way how the world sees Nepal. The petitioners have pressed the government and the authorities to preserve protected lands and wildlife habitats from unsustainable development plans that are threatening the tourism sector for which Nepal's protected areas are famous in the international field. Chitwan National Park chief warden Kamal Jung Kunwar stated that Minister of Forests and Soil Conservation Mahesh Acharya called attention to the seriousness to protect the fragile environment from developmental proposed in this part, and look out for options that are sustainable to the current environment. Minister Acharya's announcement came when the Ministry of Physical Planning and Works made a decision to begin the construction without even carrying out an environmental impact assessment.
Indian rhinoceros in Chitwan National Park

This news highlights the action taken by the global community in an effort to help save the world's environment and its inhabitants. Chitwan National Park, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, functions as an important habitat for charismatic species like the Bengal tiger, Indian one-horned rhinoceros, elephant, and other wildlife. The implementation of such construction projects that cut through the national park would pose a major threat to its inhabitants. Chitwan National Park has known to be one of the few wild places in the world where anti-poaching operations have shown to be effective in protecting the wildlife. But with proposed development projects like these would not only impact the environment, but affect the park's reputation as a safe haven for wildlife. This extraordinary effort carried out by 60,000 people from around the world, in order to prevent such an environmental catastrophe should be taken as an inspiration to other members of the global community to act upon similar environmental situations that are threatening to impact the world's natural habitats. Chitwan National Park may be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but there are also countless other wild places around the world that are under severe threat from issues ranging from poaching and illegal wildlife trade to habitat destruction and development projects. Many of these places are not even world heritage sites, and may not be home to charismatic species of animals like elephants, tigers, rhinos, etc. that require a great deal of attention. Regardless of what status a wild place has or the species of animals it houses, it is still part of the biosphere and must be thoroughly studied before converting it into a national park or a construction site. As part of the effort to protect the global environment, it is extremely crucial to conduct an environmental impact assessment before deciding to carry out a construction project.

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