Assam, Oct 21: Supreme Court constructed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has asked the Assam government to take action on illegal construction in the identified wildlife corridors of the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve.
In a letter to the State’s Chief Secretary, CEC Member-Secretary Amarnatha Shetty said an action taken report should be submitted to the panel within four weeks.
The CEC had taken note of an inspection report submitted by Hemen Hazarika, scientist and head of the Guwahati-based Integrated Regional Office of the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on September 10.
The report on violation of the court’s order on April 12, 2019, was based on the inspection conducted by Laetitia J. Syiemiong, Deputy Inspector-General of Forest (Central) and additional in charge of the regional office.
The court’s order disallowed new construction on private lands that form part of the nine identified animal corridors of the tiger reserve, considered the world’s safest address of the one-horned rhinos. The court had also banned all types of mining on these corridors.
In August, Syiemiong inspected the construction activities on eight of the nine corridors along with park Director P. Sivakumar. This followed a complaint by Assam-based green activist Rohit Choudhury, pointing to new construction in the animal corridors in contempt of the court order.
“It was found that there has been illegal construction all along” the eight animal corridors during the inspection at the field level, the report said while noting that the court order had been violated.
“Apart from illegal construction, the greatest eyesore and also a threat to the animals of Kaziranga National Park is the presence of trucks, etc. In the recent past it has been observed that trucks, tankers, and other vehicles are stopping to park in roadsides… and creating unnecessary hindrance to wild animal movement from Kaziranga National Park to Karbi Anglong hillside,” the report said.
“Because of this, the number of hotels/dhabas are increasing day by day and… it seems like the said dhabas especially are chopping firewood from the trees of Karbi-Anglong hillside illegally,” it added.
The inspection also revealed that vehicle operators were washing their vehicles in streams flowing into the national park, thereby polluting the water bodies with oil, grease and wastewater. Dumping of garbage on the animal corridors and noise pollution due to the movement of vehicles was also deteriorating the environment of the park, the report noted.
It underlined the corridor obstruction from a temple built-in 2019 in the Haldibari corridor (Golaghat district) and many shops have come up around it, although “a maximum of three shops” are allowed in animal corridors after permission sought from the local authorities.
Among the other new construction activities were a wedding hall and a resort in this corridor. The resort authorities had built a stronger wall after elephants knocked down a long boundary wall earlier.
The report also took serious note of a new expansive house owned by the “local minister” in the Kanchanjuri animal corridor in Nagaon district. This house and a restaurant nearby adjoin a tea estate.