Green Tribunal seeks State Govt report by Dec 10

November 21, 2013


NEW DELHI, Nov 20 – Taking strong exception to non-compliance with the Environment Clearance (EC) conditions, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Government of Assam to recommend measures for protection of wildlife and human beings on National Highway (NH) 37 running through the Kaziranga National Park (KNP), by December 10.

The increasing number of deaths of wildlife on the 18-km stretch of the NH runningparallel to the wildlife sanctuary, home to the one-horned rhino, may lead the NGT to impose tough measures like regulating speed of vehicles, use of cameras and restricting use of horns. A proposal to build a bridge over the vulnerable stretch is also not ruled out.

The case relates to a petition filed by Rohit Choudhury before the NGT regarding safety of wildlife of the KNP and protection of the environment of the  sanctuary. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highway (MoRTH), National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL), besides the Assam Government were also madeparty in the case.

Slamming the authorities for not complying with the Environment Clearance (EC) conditions, the NGT remarked that strangely, the NHAI and NRL took no steps for modification or alteration in the conditions imposed in the EC order till date. At this stage, it remains unquestionable that the conditions of EC regarding alternative construction of road are not complied with, it observed.

The NGT noted that the MoEF had granted EC in 1991. One of the conditions of the EC order provided for creation of an alternative highway or diversion of NH-37 passing through the Kaziranga sanctuary.

However, the Assam Government has informed that it is not possible  to make an alternative highway.

A part of the case relates to the environmental hazard resulting from the highwayconstructed in the sanctuary. High rate of animal deaths is another grievance raised by Choudhury. “We are primarily concerned with the environmental impact of the traffic on this NH in a sanctuary relating to air and other pollutions and most importantly on theenvironmental dynamics, therein.”

This condition was admittedly imposed and communicated to all including Assam Government and yet it has not been complied with. The stand taken by NHAI is that only two per cent of the traffic of the NH is generated directly or indirectly because of their  activity.

Hearing the matter, a Bench comprising Chairperson of NGT Justice Swatanter Kumar, Justice UD Salvi, Judicial member Dr DK Agrawal, Expert Members, BS Sajwan and Dr RC Trivedi on Monday directed the Chief Secretary of Assam to immediately hold a meeting and submit a report to the Tribunal suggesting measures for protecting the environmenton the National Highway, as well as injury to wildlife and human beings, particularly with regard to the 18 Km stretch.

The Chief Secretary has been asked to draft the recommendations in consultation with the Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF). The meeting would also be joined by representatives of Ministry of Road Transport and Highway, NHAI and Ministry of Petroleum not below the rank of Additional Secretary and the Chief Warden of the Wildlife of Assam.



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