The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to review all the clearances given to various projects in the Elephant Habitat and Corridors (EHC) in a time-bound manner. The court has listed out 16 directions to be followed by the State.
Also, the government cannot renew or grant clearance for diversion of forest land falling within the EHC without referring such proposals to the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) of the State for assessment of potential impact.
While directing the State to review non-forest activities in EHC and take appropriate action in case of any violation of law in such instances, the court also directed the government to take steps to reduce the pressure on the EHC by people who utilise the EHC illegally and re-locate or rehabilitate such people in accordance with the law.
A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice D.H. Waghela and Justice B.V. Nagarathna issued the directions while disposing of a public interest litigation petition initiated suo motu by the court based on newspaper reports on instances of elephant deaths.
The directions were issued based on the recommendations made by a court-appointed elephant task force (ETF) comprising experts. The State government had told the court that majority of the suggestions of the task force is acceptable to it.
The Bench also directed the State to review use of land on the periphery of forests falling within the EHC and take steps for its conservation and preservation.
Referring to instances of elephant attacks on people, the Bench directed the Chief Wildlife Warden to formulate an action plan to ameliorate the danger faced by citizens on account of elephant menace or death caused by elephants.
With regard to human-elephant conflicts in Alur-Arkalgud taluks of Hassan district, Bench directed the State review the matter at various stages and from various angles periodically so as to capture elephants in this area bearing in mind the balance of convenience from the point of view of both the elephants as well as the human populace, while also keeping in mind the recommendation of the task force in this regard and the dissent notes for the recommendation.
To check instances of elephant electrocution, the Bench directed the State to issue directions to electricity supply agencies and institutions to ensure that fencing around plantations and estates would not be a threat to the life of elephants by any electrical installation, supply lines, and theft of power. The Bench hoped that commendable efforts put in by well-meaning legal fraternity, experts, and officials of various department of the State, will go a long way in not only protecting the “majestic mammal of great historic and environmental importance” but engender a culture of sustainable co-existence with all species of animals.