Suggest ways to protect Kaziranga: NGT to Assam

New Delhi: National Green Tribunal today directed the Assam government to hold a meeting with environment, petroleum and transport ministries to suggest ways to protect environment inside Kaziranga sanctuary, which is being "adversely" hit due to traffic movement on NH 37.

The Tribunal also said that death of wild animals and reptiles on the 18-km long stretch was also a cause of concern.

 Suggest ways to protect Kaziranga: NGT to Assam

A rhino at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. PTI

"We are primarily concerned with the environmental impact of the traffic on this National Highway (NH) on sanctuary relating to air and other pollutions and most importantly on the environmental dynamics therein. It is indisputable that wildlife is also adversely affected.

"We hereby direct Chief Secretary/Secretary concerned of Assam to immediately hold a meeting with Secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests wherein representatives of the respondents 3 (Ministry of Road Transport and Highways) and 4 (NHAI) and Ministry of Petroleum not below rank of Additional Secretary and Chief Warden of the Wildlife of Assam shall also be party.

"This meeting shall suggest measures which have to be taken for protecting the environment on the National Highway as well as injury to wildlife and human beings particularly with regard to stretch of 18 km (through the sanctuary)," a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

The NGT was hearing a plea filed by RTI activist Rohit Choudhury opposing expansion of the NH-37 stretch running through the national park claiming that "continued unregulated use of NH-37 is leading to death of wild animals and reptiles in large numbers in road accidents".

The bench also observed that conditions imposed while granting environment clearance (EC) to Numaligarh Refinery Ltd, located in the area, has not been complied with as under the EC the state had to ensure that an alternative highway be created or NH 37 be diverted away from the sanctuary.

"Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had granted EC in 1991 to respondent 6 (Numaligarh Refinery Ltd). One of the conditions of the EC provided they shall create an alternative highway or divert NH 37 stated to be passing through Kanziranga Sanctuary away from it. This condition was admittedly imposed and communicated to all including Assam and yet it has not been complied with," the bench said.

The committee comprising of senior officials of Assam, ministries of environment, petroleum, transport as well as NHAI and others have to submit a report of their suggestions before the next date of hearing 10 December, the bench said.

In their report, the panel has to state whether underpasses or flyovers can be built in the area, the extent to which speed of vehicles shall be maintained and checked on the 18 km stretch of highway through Kaziranga, steps to ensure that no overloaded vehicles ply on that road, to
prohibit use of horns and sirens in that area and installation of cameras and speedo meters.

"Further, this committee shall also give to us reasons and the status with regard to compliance of the conditions imposed on respondent 6 (Numaligarh)," the tribunal said.

The NGT, meanwhile, allowed repair of the existing mettle road but made it clear that no expansion or shouldering of the highway is permitted till next date of hearing.

PTI

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Updated Date: Nov 19, 2013 21:54:11 IST