Supreme Court panel seeks report on Kaziranga animal corridor encroachment

RTI and environment activist had filed complaint after work on a resort began on the Kanchanjuri corridor

Updated - July 08, 2020 01:44 pm IST

Published - July 08, 2020 01:41 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Forest officials travel through a forest road during a Rhino census inside the Kaziranga National Park in Bokakhat district of Assam. File photo

Forest officials travel through a forest road during a Rhino census inside the Kaziranga National Park in Bokakhat district of Assam. File photo

The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) constituted by the Supreme Court has asked Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden to submit a “factual report” on illegal construction at a major animal corridor adjoining the Kaziranga National Park (KNP).

Amarnatha Shetty, the panel’s Member-Secretary, on July 7 wrote to Chief Wildlife Warden M.K. Yadava to send the report on the “illegal construction in Kanchanjuri corridor” as alleged by Assam-based Right To Information and environment activist Rohit Choudhury.

Watch | Inside Kaziranga: counting one-horned rhinos

The CEC sought the report specifically in the context of the violation of the top court’s April 12, 2019, order banning new construction on private lands that form part of the nine identified animal corridors. Kanchanjuri is among the corridors and used by animals, especially to escape the flooded KNP during the monsoon months and return from the relative safety of the Karbi Anglong hills after the water subsides.

Also read: In rhino country, a division to boost conservation efficiency

A highway flanked by private lands separates the one-horned rhino habitat, also a tiger reserve , from the hills.

Mr. Choudhury on June 30 filed a complaint with the CEC, alleging “blatant violations” of the SC ruling “in connivance with the forest, civil and police administration of the area”. This, he said, was in contempt of the court and orders should be issued to demolish the construction so that connectivity of the animal corridor could be restored.

“A powerful and influential person is involved in undertaking construction of a huge building with approach road within the critical Kanchanjuri animal corridor,” he said in the complaint. He added that the ongoing construction “can easily be seen from the national highway” running along the southern edge of KNP.

The activist said the matter was brought to the notice of the State’s Chief Secretary earlier in June but no action was taken.

“If destruction of notified animal corridors continues in this manner, then it is a matter of time that all the corridors will be destroyed and blocked and Kaziranga Tiger Reserve and its wildlife will be completely isolated from Karbi Anglong hills, which are a lifeline to the beleaguered animals during the annual floods ,” his complaint read.

Apart from prohibiting construction, the top court’s 2019 order had banned all mining-related activities on the periphery of KNP and catchment area of rivers, streams or rivulets originating in the Karbi Anglong hills and flowing into the national park.

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