The National Green Tribunal, East Zone Bench, Kolkata has directed the Odisha state government to notify the elephant corridors in terms of the elephant corridors as identified by the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) and the Action Plan on the time-line for implementation of the recommendations made by the ANCF, within a period of two months.
Judicial Member, Justice B Amit Sthalekar and Expert Member Saibal Dasgupta passed this direction while hearing an application filed by Wildlife Society of Orissa (Elephant Corridors). The applicant sought a direction to the Secretary, Forest and Environment Department, Government of Odisha to submit proposals for declaration and notification of 14 elephant corridors to the Central Government and a further direction to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to take immediate action and to issue draft notification and thereafter a final notification notifying the 14 elephant corridors. The Wildlife Society submitted that a Task Force was set up by the Government of India on recognizing the peculiar nature of elephants to migrate from one place to another place in search of fodder and propagation of species and such migratory paths are part and parcel of the elephant ecology. This Task force was set up to determine the status and recommend measures for the long-term survival and protection of elephants. The Task Force then prepared a report titled ‘Gajah’ which was released in August, 2010 with several recommendations. “... elephant corridors being a part of the elephant ecology needs to be prescribed and therefore, notified as ecological sensitive zones under Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,” the applicant submitted.
The NGT was further told that the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife)-cum-Chief Wildlife Warden, Odisha, had presented details of elephant corridors in the State of Odisha identifying the 14 corridors with a total area of 870.61 sq. kms having a length of 420.8 kms and a width of 0.08 km to 4.6 kms. Thereafter, a “Plan for Management of Elephant Corridors across forest habitats in Orissa” was submitted to the State Government on 25.08.2011, the Bench was further informed. It was the case of the applicant that the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, Odisha had submitted a proposal to the Forest and Environment Department, Government of Odisha to notify 14 traditional elephant corridors, but till date no action had been taken. The State of Odisha and other respondents had submitted before NGT in 2017 stating that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed with ANCF which was given the mandate to identify the major and minor elephant corridors in the State of Odisha along with the work of assessing the habitat viability etc. and necessary action for notifying the elephant corridors which could be taken up only after receipt of the report of the Foundation. Besides the elephant corridors identified by ANCF, certain other elephant corridors were also identified by the Forest Department as priority corridors. While relying on the relevant portions of the Action Plan submitted before it, the bench disposed the application while directing the state government to take appropriate actions.
NGT firm on deregistration of diesel vehicles of more than 10 years
The National Green Tribunal has refused to modify its order directing the deregistration of diesel vehicles in Delhi-NCR which are over 10 years old. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel noted that the appeal against its order has already been dismissed by the Supreme Court. “As noted in the order dated July 18, 2016, appeal against order dated April 7, 2015 directing that more than 10 years old diesel vehicles be not allowed to ply on Delhi-NCR roads was dismissed by the Supreme Court. “In these circumstances, modification sought is in the nature of review. Review of the order against which appeal has already been dismissed is not permissible. The applications are dismissed,” the bench said.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by Haryana Progressive Schools Conference, an association of CBSE and ICSE-affiliated schools in the state of Haryana, seeking modification of orders of the NGT. By the said orders, the NGT directed the deregistration of diesel vehicles which are more than 10 years of age. The basis of prayer in the present applications was that the COVID-19 period should be excluded for calculating the period of 10 years. The NGT had earlier declined to lift its ban on such vehicles in Delhi-NCR, noting that emissions from diesel vehicles were carcinogenic. The green panel said the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises has failed to prove that the use of 10-year-old diesel vehicles will not be harmful to the health of people. It also said that a report of the pollution monitoring body has declared that one new diesel car is equivalent to 24 petrol and 84 new CNG cars on road. Referring to a report published by the Central Pollution Control Board, the green body said the use of diesel in vehicles was highly toxic carcinogenic and leads to an untimely fatality. On April 7, 2015, the NGT had banned all diesel vehicles over 10 years old from plying in Delhi-NCR roads. Later, on July 18 and 20, 2016, it had ordered deregistration of 15 to 10 years old diesel vehicles in the national capital in a phased manner. It had said that diesel vehicles which are 15-years-old should be de-registered first and will not get No Objection Certificate (NoC) for plying outside Delhi-NCR.
SC order in quarry case brings cheer to greens
Despite the recent Supreme Court order staying the injunction order of the Kerala High Court against the National Green Tribunal (NGT) norms on distance between quarries and the nearest residential area, illegal stone quarrying continues unabated in the State, say environmentalists. “As soon as the order was issued on August 25, we had informed the Kerala State Pollution Control Board about the same. But the Board seems to have been inactive as it could not put a stop to blasting in quarries violating norms,” says TV Rajan, secretary of the All-Kerala River Protection Committee, which is one of the parties in the case supporting the NGT order. The issue began with a group of local people in Muthalamada, Palakkad, organising a signature campaign against a quarry in their locality and forwarding it with a petition to the Prime Minister, with supporting documents, requesting putting an end to the threat posed by the quarry to their homes. A copy of the same was forwarded to the NGT, based on which the Tribunal suo motu registered a case. In March this year, the NGT passed an order stating that there should be at least 200 metres distance between a quarry and the nearest house. The Tribunal took into account reports from Pollution Control Boards in various States on the issue and found that most States maintained a distance of 200 to 300 metres between the quarries and the nearest residences, while in Kerala the distance was only 50 metres. However, quarry owners questioned the order in the Kerala High Court on the ground that their side was never heard and that stone quarrying was a necessary evil if the construction sector and road works were to thrive. The High Court then altered and issued a partial injunction of the order of the Tribunal, according to which it was applicable only to new quarries and also those renewing their licenses. Meanwhile, the quarry owners filed a petition in the Supreme Court questioning the authority of the NGT in taking up an issue based on a complaint to the Prime Minister. The group from Muthalamada and another from Pathanamthitta besides the All-Kerala River Protection Committee had joined as party in the case. “We have won the first phase of the case since we could lift the injunction. Now the distance norm is applicable to all quarries, not just the new ones,” says Rajan, adding that the Supreme Court will be informed about the non-compliance of quarries during the hearing on September 1.