GUWAHATI, April 26 - The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has requested the State government to stop stone mining activities in Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape, which have been seriously affecting tiger conservation activities in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP), also known as the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve (KTR).
Acting on a complaint filed by RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury before it, the NTCA sent a team to make an on-the-spot study of the stone mining activities in the Karbi Anglong hills adjacent to KNP. The team made field visits in this connection on January 11 and 12, 2018.
Based on the report of this team, Raja Ram Singh, Assistant Inspector General of Forests (NTCA) has written to the Chief Secretary of Assam, �...I am directed to request you to kindly take immediate action as appropriate to stop the mining, quarrying, stone crusher activities in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Landscape as they are seriously hampering survival and conservation of tiger, its habitats, co-predators, prey including mega harbivores and their transit routes during annual flood season.�
The NTCA has also asked for immediate submission of the Tiger Conservation Plan of Kaziranga Tiger Reserve by the State government, stating that it is mandated under Section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 to continue funding assistance under the CSS-PT.
The NTCA team that visited the site has observed that stone mining/quarrying and stone crushers established in the intervening area between Kaziranga and Karbi Anglong hills are responsible for destruction of wildlife corridors and vital wildlife habitat which is essential for long ranging species like Indian elephants and tigers.
�In addition, these stone mining/quarrying and stone crushers are also responsible for drying and siltation of several natural streams and rivulets that flow from Karbi Anglong hills towards Kaziranga. Considering the destructive impacts of quarrying/mining activity all the stone mining/quarrying and crusher units need to be closed down immediately.
�If these destructive activities are not stopped immediately then there is a high risk of Kaziranga National Park losing its corridor and habitat connectivity with larger Karbi Anglong landscape permanently,� the team observed in its report.
Besides, the team also recommended constitution of a committee by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to review all the permissions, clearances given to stone crusher units and stone quarrying/mining units operating in Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape.
Its other recommendations included preparation of a �Tiger Conservation Plan� for core, buffer and corridor and for notifying �Eco-sensitive Zone� around KNP and KTR.
It further said, �Keeping in view the long-term conservation of mega herbivores like Indian rhinoceros, Indian elephant and mega carnivores such as tiger, the Kaziranga Tiger Reserve boundary may be rationalized by including areas of Karbi Anglong adjoining Kaziranga.�
The NTCA team quoted in its report the 1996 report of the forest range officer of Kaziranga range to the DFO concerned, which opposed setting up of a stone crusher unit near the Panbari Reserve Forest.
The range officer said in his report that the proposed site of stone crusher unit was just outside the boundary of Panbari Reserve Forest having rich bird diversity and also habitat for hoolock gibbon, the only ape of India. The area is free from human habitation and during seasonal migration the wild elephants from the national park use this area to access the Karbi Anglong hills.
During high flood time, the wild animals use Panbari RF area as shelter and installation of stone crusher unit would cause disturbance to wild animals through noise as well as other forms of pollution, the range officer said in its report.
The report also quoted, among others, a letter of the KNP director to the Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Assam that highlighted the fact that over 40 stone quarries have been allowed in the Karbi Anglong East and Golaghat forest divisions, particularly in the hill slopes facing the National Highway-37.