GUWAHATI, Nov 1 - It seems the State Government is least bothered about keeping the natural environment of the State intact.
Or else, it would not have gone to the extent of allotting or proposing to allot vast plots of land to two Central Government forces within the Eco Sensitive Zone of Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary in the heart of the city. Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary is considered to be a major source of oxygen for Guwahati, and, with its natural resources, it has become an inseparable part of the natural heritage of this metropolis.
In June, 2018, the State Government proposed to allot a plot of 34 hectares of land adjacent to Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary under Sonapur Revenue Circle for setting up the headquarters of Indo-Tibet Border Police (ITBP). Around 80 per cent of the ITBP project area lies within the Eco Sensitive Zone notified by the Union Government on May 7, 2017 for the Wildlife Sanctuary.
Then the State Government transferred 250 bighas of land to the First Battalion of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in Village Amsing NC under the same revenue circle. This land also falls within the said Eco- Sensitive Zone.
Moreover, the approach road measuring around 2 km to the said NDRF plot passes through this Wildlife Sanctuary.
The northern part of the plot, sought to be allotted to the ITBP, touches the boundary of the Wildlife Sanctuary. Significantly, there exists three elephant corridors in this part of the plot. This plot also touches a big wetland which is regularly used by the wild elephants. The District-Level Monitoring Committee of the Amchang Eco Sensitive Zone did not approve the ITBP project since the Zonal Master Plan for the Eco Sensitive Zone was not prepared.
The Committee referred the proposal to the State�s Environment and Forest Department for making special provision for approving the ITBP project.
RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury, who could obtain copies of official communications made in the above proposal for setting up the ITBP headquarters and the NDRF campus, said the state Forest Department is of the view that the ITBP plot lying inside the Eco Sensitive Zone is a forest as per Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
Moreover, the Department is also of the view that the plot is ecologically fragile and bears the cardinal characteristics of forest, that is � vast area, presence of trees, bamboo, undergrowth, ideal habitat of wild elephants etc., and hence certainly qualifies to be forest as defined by the Supreme Court of India and the criteria followed by an expert committee constituted to examine the matter.
The Forest Department objected to the proposal for setting up this project without approval of the Central Government under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, said Choudhury.
In the case of the NDRF project, the Forest Department stated that the land was allotted to the NDRF �without proper survey and application of mind.�
The Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) and Nodal Officer (FC Act), Assam in his letter to the Additional Chief Secretary of Assam (Environment and Forest Department) (No. FG.16/Road/NDRF/2019) said that the above road cannot be used by the NDRF without prior approval of the Central Government and the National Board of Wildlife as per the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 respectively.
Hence, the CCF requested the Additional Chief Secretary to ask the authorities concerned either to shift the NDRF campus site to a location far-off from the Amchang Wildlife Sanctuary or to provide it an alternate non-forest approach land.
�If there is no such alternative, the NDRF may apply for forest clearance and wildlife clearance�,� said the CCF in his above letter.