New Delhi: The Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has been asked by the National Green Tribunal to take "necessary" action against the industrial units operating unauthorisedly in the `No Development Zone` around the Kaziranga National Park in Assam.
The Tribunal, however, asked the ministry to obtain its prior permission before taking any "coercive action" against three tea processing units operating within the No Development Zone near Numaligarh Refinery near the Kaziranga park, which is home to the largest population of one-horned rhinoceros.
A bench, which had earlier restrained MoEF from granting any fresh approval to the stone-crushing or other industrial units in the vicinity of the park, asked the ministry to take action against other industries in the No-Development-Zone.
"In view of the aforesaid directions (earlier orders), we direct the MoEF to go ahead with the investigation and submit a report before this Tribunal as early as possible.
"It shall also take such action as necessary in respect of other units which are functioning unauthorisedly within the No-Development-Zone, but they shall not take any coercive action so far as newly added respondents (three tea processing units) are concerned, without obtaining prior permission from this Tribunal," said a bench of Tribunal`s Acting
Chairperson Justice A S Naidu.
The tea processing units had approached the Tribunal to be made a party and to have their say in the case filed by Assam- based activist Rohit Chaudhary, seeking directions to stop quarrying and stone-crushing units around the national park.
The petitioner had alleged large-scale violation of July 5, 1996 notification of MoEF which declared as "No Development Zone", the area within a radius of 15 kilometers from the petroleum refinery at Numaligarh near the national park.
The petitioner had alleged unregulated quarrying and mining activities in the `No Development Zone` around the park and Tiger Reserve and Karbi-Anglong Elephant Reserve in Assam.
The Tribunal had earlier directed all industrial units to maintain status quo and on February 15, had restrained MoEF from granting fresh approvals to industries or stone-crushing unit or renewing the licences of existing ones, operating there.
On April 22, the Tribunal had sought a report from MoEF on industries functioning in vicinity of the park and asked the ministry to conduct a survey in the park`s vicinity.
The petitioner has sought directions to the MoEF and the Assam government to identify stone-crushing and industrial units operating without approval in the `no development zone` and to take necessary action against them including their closure.
The answers to petitioner`s queries under the RTI Act had revealed that there are 19 stone-quarrying units in the region and 10 of them are within five kilometers of the national park while the rest are situated between five to 10 kilometers, the petitioner had said.
Kaziranga National Park is home to three-fourth of total Rhino population and largest concentration of endangered species like swamp deer, wild-buffalo, elephants, tigers and Gangetic dolphins, the petition had said.