Bye Bye Elephant Corridor, Hello Golf Course?
The Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) has created a Gofl Course right in the middle of the Elephant Corridor in Kaziranga National Park. Showing complete disregard for the rules and the orders of the National Green Tribunal, the NRL acquired land very close to Deopahar Proposed Reserved Forest, Assam, within the ‘No-development Zone’, was declared around NRL during its formation in the 1996 with a view to protect Kaziranga National Park and the wildlife corridors. Here, without the necessary clearances, they have built a golf course on the northern side of the old township by destroying forests, hillocks and wetlands, and also constructed a massive boundary wall, running more than two km. in length on the newly acquired land around Deopahar forests. This wall has effectively obstructed an important elephant corridor, disturbing the movements of the wild pachyderms who use the route to access waterholes and food on the other side. The wall has already claimed the life of an elephant calf. The seven-year-old male elephant was found dead next to the NRL boundary wall, and an on spot verification attributed its death to a severe hemorrhage as it desperately tried to break through the wall.
The NRL’s golf course lies within the no development zone and the area was frequented by elephants, deer and other wildlife for foraging and water requirements. This poses a threat to the crucial wildlife corridor, impacting not only the animals, but also the environment and ecology of the area. No Biodiversity Impact Assessment was performed in and around Deopahar before the excavation and tree felling was started by NRL. Further the construction of boundary wall and golf course by NRL is in clear violations of conditions imposed in the NOC issued by Ministry of Environment and Forests for establishing the old township during 1994.
The matter is being heard by the National Green Tribunal filed by environment activist Rohit Choudhury [Miscellaneous Application (M.A) No. 787 of 2015 filed in Original Application of 38/2011 (Rohit Choudhury Vs Union of India & Ors).] and the demolition of the wall and subsequent restoration of the area is being considered by the courts, along with the suspension of all illegal activity in the area and the payment of a compensation fee for the destruction of prime forest land in a No-Development Zone. The matter is being represented by eminent environment lawyer Adv. Ritwick Dutta.