'Inspect industries around Kaziranga'



`Inspect industries around Kaziranga` New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has sought a report from the Ministry of Environment and Forest on industrial units functioning in the vicinity of the Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

Asking the ministry to conduct a survey in the park's vicinity, the Tribunal also expressed its displeasure on the ministry's failure to a respond to the plea which alleged unregulated quarrying and mining activities in the 'No Development Zone' around the park and Tiger Reserve and Karbi-Anglong Elephant Reserve in Assam.

"We express our displeasure as the MoEF has not filed its reply despite several opportunities given to it," the Tribunal said, adding if no reply is filed till May 23, the next date of hearing, it will go ahead and decide the case on its merits.

"The MoEF, meanwhile, shall conduct an inspection of the site through responsible officers of the MoEF and submit a report on the total area of 'No Development Zone' and number of industrial units functioning in side zone of its vicinity, and demarcate the same in the map," said the Tribunals' bench of its Acting Chairman Justice A Suryanarayan Naidu and Member G K Pandey.

The order came on a petition by Assam-based transparency activist Rohit Chaudhary through advocate Rahul Chaudhary, seeking directions to the government to stop quarrying and stone crushing units around Kaziranga National Park, which is home to the largest population of one-horned rhinoceros.

During the hearing, advocate Ritwick Dutta, appearing for the petitioner, submitted a list of brick kilns, stone crushers, stone quarries and tea factories operating within the 'No Development Zone' of the Numaligarh Refinery.

A list of location of stone crushers under Eastern Assam Wild Life Division, Bokakhat, was also submitted to the bench by the Assam government.

The tribunal had issued notice to the MoEF and Assam government on January 5 and sought their replies to the plea.

Earlier on February 15, the bench had restrained the MoEF from granting any fresh approval to industrial or stone crushing unit or renewing the licences of existing ones, operating in the vicinity of the Kaziranga National Park.

The petitioner had sought directions to the MoEF to "take immediate measures" to identify stone crushing and industrial units operating without prior approval in the 'no development zone' as demarcated in the 1996 ministry's notification and to take necessary action against them including their closure.

The petitioner had also sought directions to "the defaulting units to take measures to restore the environment" and undo the damaged to it due to their operations in the park's vicinity.

It said the 1996 notification declared the area as 'No Development Zone' and barred any pollution causing activity without prior approval of the MoEF.

The answers to queries under the RTI Act had revealed that there are 19 stone quarrying units in the region and 10 of them are within five kilometres of the national park and the rest are situated between five to 10 kilometres, 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 said.

PTI