tech2 News StaffJan 21, 2019 19:09:48 IST
The Supreme Court on 18 January ordered a public oil refinery in Assam to entirely remove a controversial wall built on one of the state's major elephant migration corridors in Deopahar Reserve Forest, adjacent to the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve in Golaghat, Assam.
The 2.2-kilometre boundary wall was built in 2011 to allow state-run fossil fuel facility, Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL), to expand its operations into the Deopahar Reserve.
NRL was taken to court by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in August 2018, where the tribunal refused to reconsider its intentions to have the wall demolished, which it has been trying to from 2016.
The refinery was compelled to take down a 289-metre stretch of the wall in March 2018 to free up the passage for elephants to move between Kaziranga and Deopahar. In their view, demolishing the entire wall was unnecessary.
In 2015, an elephant reportedly died of a hemorrhage after repeatedly bashing its head against the wall to try and break it. In multiple videos captured since then, elephant herds have been caught trying to frantically get past the artificial barrier before eventually giving in and heading back the way they came.
By striking down the appeal made by the NRL to maintain the wall, judges noted that "Elephants have first right on the forest," Justice D Y Chandrachud, one of the two judges overseeing the case's proceedings, said according to LiveLaw.in. "Elephants do not go to office in a designated route. We cannot encroach upon the elephant’s area."
"As regards the wall with barbed wire fencing which comes in the way of Elephant Corridor, the same should be demolished. The area, where the wall has come up and the proposed township is to come up is a part of Deopahar PRF. It also falls within the No-Development Zone notification, issued by the MoEF in 1996," the NGT had declared in the 2016 case. "The wall should be demolished within a period of one month and the proposed township should not come up in the present location.”
The NRL, in turn, files a legal response saying that the township it intends to build was cleared by authorities — the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority. There was no need to tear down the whole wall, as what's left of the wall today falls outside the Deopahar Reserve Forest.
The Tribunal made it clear that the wall and the township were both falling within the Deopahar Reserve and that the NRL was unnecessarily grasping at straws by rehashing arguments from the 2016 case.
"I am extremely happy about what the Supreme Court has said on the matter...a strongly worded statement in favour of wildlife and elephants. I hope the NRL will now fall in line and demolish the wall, after which elephants will be able to walk again in the Deopahar Reserve Forest," said Choudhary.
"This order is also a lesson to future would-be encroachers, especially operating in protected areas like these."
#GoodNews: #Elephants get #RightOfPassage. Abt 5-some reckon 10 have died of brain hemorrhage banging their head againsthis illegal wall around a illegal GOLF course by Numaligarh Refinery in their habitat close to #Kaziranga. Thanks @Rohitskaziranga for your relentless fight https://t.co/51tqJ9uqvw
— prerna singh bindra (@prernabindra) January 20, 2019
Now it’s a settled Principle that elephants have first right over Forest. This ruling by apex court of India paves way for demolition 2.2 km of wall constructed across elephant corridor by NRL near Kaziranga Sanctuary. Nothing can be more satisfying. RT to preserve our heritage. pic.twitter.com/dUOQlQqW1C
— susanta nanda IFS (@susantananda3) January 20, 2019
Moral/Story of the day: Oil refinery builds boundary wall blocking elephant corridor. Green Tribunal orders wall to be demolished. Assam High Court stays the demolition. The next day, over 70 elephants entered the refinery township. https://t.co/jAhL0BUwfP
— Aruna Chandrasekhar (@aruna_sekhar) September 5, 2018
#NGT Principal Bench rejected Review Application filed by Numaligarh Refinery Limited in Golaghat Assam ,seeking review of NGT order of 2016,which directed demolition of boundary wall constructed by NRL & blocked the Elephant Corridor in close vicinity of Kaziranga National Park. pic.twitter.com/yFSaltPdew
— LIFE (@lifeindia2016) August 3, 2018
NEWS UPDATE: Some positive news for the restoration of an important elephant #corridor as the National Green Tribunal directed the Numaligarh Refinery Limitedin Assam’s Golaghat to completely demolish the wall which blocks an elephant corridor in the area https://t.co/W5T7HCWKuc pic.twitter.com/rqojsrDGuo
— Elephant Family (@elephantfamily) August 8, 2018