Factories in wildlife zones face scrutiny

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  • Published 26.08.12

Cuttack, Aug. 25: A public interest litigation (PIL) filed in Orissa High Court has sought intervention against 13 industrial units that were operating within a 10-km radius of the boundaries of five wildlife sanctuaries in Odisha.

The projects had undertaken industrial, mining and construction activities without the mandatory clearance of the National Board for Wildlife, the PIL alleged, while seeking action to prevent them from causing damage to the ecology in and around the wildlife sanctuaries.

“The natural habitats of the wild animals, which have been designated as sanctuaries by the authorities through due process of law, is being disturbed regularly and tremendously because of construction, mining and industrial activities undertaken by these projects. The effect of this damage is irreversible. This would deprive the wildlife of its natural habitat,” the petition contends

The division bench of Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice S.K. Mishra, before which the PIL of advocate Mahendra Mohapatra came up for admission on Friday, issued notices to the Union ministry of environment and forests and Odisha environment and forest department. Mohapatra alleged that prohibited activities had been undertaken within 10-km radius of the boundaries of Kapilash Wildlife Sanctuary (Dhenkanal district), Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary (Khurda-Cuttack districts), Hadagarh Elephant Sanctuary (Keonjhar- Mayurbhanj districts) and Similipal Wildlife Sanctuary (Mayurbhanj district).

The PIL contends: “The intention sought to be achieved by notifying the wildlife sanctuaries is being defeated in the face of illegal construction and other industrial activities in the eco-sensitive areas around these sanctuaries. No action has been taken by the Odisha government authorities either to notify eco-sensitive zones or to regulate and prohibit illegal activities in such zones.”

Among the industries alleged in the petition to be operating within the 10-km distance of wildlife sanctuaries without clearance of the National Board for Wildlife include: J.K. Lakshmi Cement Ltd, Maheswari Ispat Ltd and Aarti Steel Ltd near Kapilash Wildlife Sanctuary, Pathapur Fire Clay Mines, Bhubaneswar Power Ltd, Tata Power Company Ltd, T.R.L. Krosaki Refractories Ltd and T.S. Alloys near Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary, mining of iron ore, chrome ore, manganese, limestone by Orissa Mining Corporation near Hadagarh Elephant Sanctuary, and Ghusuria Iron, Soap Stone and Quartzite mining project and Mayur Electro Ceramics Ltd near Similipal Wildlife Sanctuary.

According to the petition, while delivering a judgment on December 4, 2006, the Supreme Court had expressed displeasure with the lackadaisical approach of various state governments to notify eco-sensitive zones around national parks/wildlife sanctuaries.

The Supreme Court held that to conserve wildlife, forest and environment, areas within 10-km radius of the boundaries of sanctuaries and national parks should be treated as eco-sensitive areas and any activity within the zone should be referred to the standing committee of National Board for Wildlife.

To implement the Supreme Court ruling, the Union ministry of environment and forests had issued a directive on December 2, 2009, which specified that clearance from the National Board for Wildlife was required, in addition to environmental clearance, if a project was situated within 10 kilometres of the boundary of a wildlife sanctuary/national park.