National Green Tribunal on Tuesday sought a response from the Centre and Assam government on a petition alleging that work of some state-owned companies in and around the Dehing-Patkai wildlife sanctuary in Tinsukia district was affecting the environment.
Based on the petition, the tribunal also issued notices and sought responses of Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, Oil India Ltd, National Highways Authority of India, Coal India Ltd and various state authorities. The petition alleged that their activities was also affecting the two elephant corridors of Golai and Bogapani.
The bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar listed the matter for hearing on March 12.
The petition, filed by wildlife biologist Kashmira Kakati, has alleged the state government allowed Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL) to construct an oil dispatch terminal in the Golai elephant corridor in violation of environment laws. The terminal would not only block the elephant corridor used by the tuskers but would also increase the vehicular traffic in the area, which would be harmful to the environment, the petition, filed through advocate Sanjay Upadhyay, said.
Seeking protection of the elephant habitats, the petition also opposed the government’s decision to allow NHAI to build the NH-38 bypass through the Bagopani corridor and prayed for directions that no permanent construction be allowed to come up in Golai corridor.
The petition alleged that construction of NHAI’s NH-38 bypass was started without obtaining the pre-requisite forest clearance. It also alleged that municipal bodies of the area are dumping waste in the reserved forest of the sanctuary which is additionally getting polluted by the untreated discharges from a mine abandoned by Coal India Ltd as well as the activities of Oil India Ltd.
The petition contends that if the bypass is not realigned and the IOCL’s oil dispatch terminal not relocated beyond the northern boundary of the reserved forest of the sanctuary, then lot of big and small private businesses will sprout up in the area and encroach upon the forest land, causing harm to environment and wildlife there.
According to Kakati’s petition, around 295 elephants use the two corridors to migrate from one end to the other of the reserved forest which is also home to over 40 species of mammals and 19 carnivores.
In her petition, she has also sought legal protection for the elephant corridors under the Environment Protection Act and that the environment ministry should make it mandatory to obtain wildlife clearance from National Board of Wild Life prior to any proposed development work within the two elephant corridors/habitat.