Golf course or elephant corridor? NGT clears path for jumbos

 

New Delhi: Five years ago, the authorities at Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL) in Assam created a golf course and fenced it with a wall resulting in deaths of 12 elephants since then.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday ordered demolition of the wall and asked the company to pay Rs.25 lakh as restoration fee for the area where the golf course had been developed.

In May 1991, the Union environment ministry granted environmental clearance for the refinery with directions to ensure safe distance from the Kaziranga National Park and sought prohibition of any development within a radius of 15km all round the refinery site.

However, NRL developed a golf course and erected a wall which fell in the way of the elephant corridor. Subsequently, Rohit Choudhury, an environmental activist approached the green tribunal against illegal activities around the No Development Zone (NDZ).

During the hearing, it was brought to the tribunal’s notice that since 2011, at least 12 elephants had died as a result of the construction of the wall.

“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’ (Proposed Reserve Forest). It also falls within the No-Development Zone notification, issued by the MoEF in 1996. Thus, the wall should be demolished within a period of one month,” said the NGT bench headed by its chairperson justice Swatanter Kumar.

NRL had also planned a township which falls in the area of the elephant corridor. On this, the tribunal directed that “the proposed township should not come up in the present location.” Hailing the order, Chandan Kumar Duarah, an environmentalist and science writer said the order will also help conserve the archaeological ruins and resources lying in the area. Numali Garh and Alongpira has been encroached by an oil depot businessman and Numaligarh tea estate, Duarah said.

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