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Green tribunal stops highway widening

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OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT Published 10.10.13, 12:00 AM

Guwahati, Oct. 9: The National Green Tribunal today restrained the Assam government from widening National Highway 37 which passes through Kaziranga National Park.

The tribunal after hearing a petition filed by Rohit Choudhury, a resident of the Bokakhat area in Golaghat district, said NH 37 passing through Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat cutting through Kaziranga National Park is not only violation of the conditions imposed by the ministry of environment and forests while granting permission to Numaligarh Refinery Ltd, but is also certainly a violation of environment issues, particularly wildlife.

“The photographs placed before us show ruthless killings of exceptional species of animals in these zones by heavy and rash traffic. We would have proceeded to pass an order prohibiting plying of any vehicles on this road. However, the counsel appearing for Assam submits that they would come out with a concrete proposal which they would implement forthwith to protect the wildlife and the national sanctuary as well,” the tribunal said in its order today.

The tribunal has granted a week’s time to the Assam government to prepare the complete project report in consultation with the ministry of environment and forests and place the same on record.

Further, it should also state the steps that have been taken in furtherance to the order of ministry of environment and forests dated May 31, 1991, till today. An affidavit in this regard will be filed by the chief secretary. The principal secretary of forests and environment and the chief engineer and secretary of PWD will be present before the tribunal on October 29.

This section of highway between Jakhalabandha and Numaligarh (near Behora) divides the landscape into the low-lying grasslands of Kaziranga National Park in the north and the elevated Karbi Anglong hills in the south. The highway also cuts across four wildlife corridors which forms important corridors for movement of animals between Kaziranga National Park and Karbi Anglong hills.

Choudhury filed the petition to draw the attention of this tribunal to the non-compliance of the environmental clearance condition of the ministry of environment and forests (dated May 31, 1991) granted to the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd for setting up its refinery project in Golaghat.

The environmental clearance was granted subject to strict compliance of various conditions. One of the conditions relates to denotification of the stretch of NH 37 from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat and the diversion of the highway away from the national park.

Choudhury pointed out that despite the passage of two decades, neither the highway has been diverted from the park nor has any step been taken for either handing over the same to the national park authorities or de-notifying the road from the highway records.

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