The Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee on Thursday told the Assam government to remove illegal constructions on eight of the nine wildlife corridors in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve, The Hindu reported.
Central Empowered Committee Member-Secretary Amarnatha Shetty told the state chief secretary to take action on the illegal constructions within four weeks and submit a report to the panel.
The committee’s order followed a report by the Union environment ministry that had taken note of several new structures on the corridors, set up in violation of a Supreme Court order passed in April 2019.
The court had banned new construction on the lands that are a part of the nine wildlife corridors of the reserve that is considered a safe area for the one-horned rhinos, The Hindu reported. The court had also requested authorities to stop mining on the corridors.
In August, Deputy Inspector-General of Forest (Central) Laetita J Syiemiong, representing the environment ministry, surveyed the construction on the corridors based on a complaint by Rohit Choudhury, an activist from Assam.
In her report, Syiemiong had mentioned that a temple, shops, hotels, restaurants, tea estates and even a government building were built on the eight corridors. Other constructions include a wedding hall, a resort, and a house owned by a local minister. The majority of the constructions were found in Haldibari and Kanchanjuris corridors.
“Apart from illegal construction, the greatest eyesore and also a threat to the animals of Kaziranga National Park is the presence of trucks, etc,” the report said, according to The Hindu. “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.”
Syiemiong also found that the water bodies were being polluted with oil, grease, and wash water as vehicle operators have been cleaning their vehicles in the national park. In the report, dumping of garbage and noise pollution were also said to be “deteriorating the environment” of the park.
The report also said that there was a lack of coordination between the district administration, forest department, and the police, the Hindustan Times reported. It added that no action was taken to eliminate the illegal constructions on the corridors.
The report added that the Assam government had not yet notified the delineation of the nine animal corridors spread over 44,205 km. It also suggested the demolition of illegal constructions in the animal corridors.
However, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) Amit Sahai said the forest department could not remove the illegal structures as the animal corridors are considered land from which revenue is generated.
“It is the duty of the district administrations to do that [remove illegal constructions],” he said. “We have asked the government to constitute a committee, comprising district administration as well as the forest department, so that this issue can be resolved.”