The National Green Tribunal has directed the Madhya Pradesh government to submit within three weeks separate progress report of the departments concerned on the steps taken according to an action plan to conserve gharial habitat along the Son river.
Stating that the government had filed an additional status report instead of a progress report as directed by it, the NGT held that the status report didn’t make clear the action taken so far or what remained to be done.
In an order dated July 31, 2018, the NGT had constituted a committee to prepare an action plan to check illegal mining, conserve gharials and turtles, and maintain a minimum ecological flow downstream the Ban Sagar Dam. While it was asked to frame a plan within a month of its constitution, it had to submit a report within three months. However, it submitted the report only in February this year.
The petition, filed by Nityanand Mishra, flagged the declining population of gharials along a 200-km stretch of the river due to illegal sand mining.
Contending that even the Forest Department and the police were unable to check it, Mr. Mishra said that according to the IUCN, their population has declined by 96-98% since 1946, despite the Centre declaring it a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
“The increasing intensity of fishing using gill nets, and large-scale illegal and impermissible mining activity in the protected area of the Son Gharial Sanctuary along the Son river is rapidly killing many of the scarce adults and many sub-adults,” said Mr. Mishra.
“Earlier there were between 400 and 600 gharials in the area and later their population went down to 18 in 2004. Now there are 45 gharials. Mafia kills gharials selectively and illegal sand mining worth ₹2 crore takes place on the riverbed every day,” Mr. Mishra told The Hindu .
The petitioner quoted a study by the Madras Crocodile Bank Trust which highlighted the excessive, irreversible loss of riverine habitat caused by the construction of the Ban Sagar Dam, changes in the river’s course, artificial embankments and large-scale illegal sand mining.