Minister of State for Environment and Forests Minister Jairam Ramesh on Saturday wrote to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Union Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, seeking their intervention on a complaint about a low flying helicopter carrying a Biju Janata Dal member in the Lok Sabha inside the Satkosia Tiger Reserve in Orissa.

Mr. Ramesh's letter to Mr. Patnaik follows a complaint sent to his Ministry by the NGO, The Wildlife Society of Orissa, (WSO) around an Oriya television channel report showing videos of the low-flying helicopter inside Satkosia earlier this month.

“The complaint regarding the low-flying helicopter is a very serious one, since this caused considerable disturbance to wild animals and is an offence under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,” Mr. Ramesh said in his letter to Mr. Patnaik.

In his complaint, WSO secretary Biswajit Mohanty had sought an independent inquiry into the incident by the Ministry. He had expressed apprehension that the State government would not conduct a fair probe as the MP was a member of the ruling party.

The television channel which aired the visuals had identified the MP as Baijayant Panda and said that another MP from Haryana was with him in the chopper. The Opposition had also raised the issue in the State Assembly.

Mr. Panda's office had responded to the television report saying that the BJD MP always flew with proper permission from the air traffic control (ATC), and he had never violated any rules.

Second instance

In the letter sent to Mr. Patel, Mr. Ramesh said it was learnt that this was the second instance of a low-flying helicopter in Satkosia. Stating that the State authorities had lodged a complaint with the Air Traffic Management Unit of the Civil Aviation Department in Kolkata, Mr. Ramesh urged Mr. Patel to send an advisory to all concerned to avoid such flights over protected areas.

Mr. Mohanty had also lodged a separate complaint with the MoEF about the operation of a tourist resort inside the core area of the Satkosia reserve.