GUWAHATI, Dec 19 - The Central Empowered Committee (CEC) of the Supreme Court of India has asked the Secretary, Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and the Chief Secretary of Assam to send their comments on the complaint that the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWLW), Assam is making misleading statements on the issue of Eco-Sensitive Zone (ESZ) around Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNP&TR).
The complaint was lodged by RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury on September 29 last, with the CEC alleging that the CWW, Assam has been misleading the MoEFCC on the ESZ around KNP&TR, stating that it was prepared as per the observations of the CEC.
The CEC asked both the MoEFCC Secretary and the Chief Secretary of Assam to send their comments on the issue through a letter (F No 3-1/CEC/SC/2018 dated December 2, 2020).
The proposal for the ESZ around KNP&TR, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was presented through video conferencing before the MoEFCC�s ESZ Expert Committee�s 41st meeting.
Significantly, the ESZ Expert Committee did not agree with the State�s proposal on the matter. The proposal has sought to demarcate the ESZ at a distance varying between zero and 6.2 kms from the KNP boundary.
The minutes of the above meeting in agenda item No. 5.3, said, ��Shri MK Yadava, Forest Department, Govt. of Assam gave the detailed presentation on the proposal. It was informed that ESZ proposal for Kaziranga National Park was submitted to the Ministry on July 28, 2015. After subsequent meetings and discussions within the Ministry by the expert committee, the State was asked to revise the proposal by integrating Kaziranga National Park and its adjoining eight (8) PAs (protected areas).
It was referred that in pursuance of the Supreme Court order dated April 12, 2019 in WPC 202/1995, mining activities are presently restricted in Karbi Anglong Hills adjoining Kaziranga National Park and also new constructions have been banned in 9 identified corridors.
�The committee pointed out that in spite of restrictions and ban imposed by the Supreme Court, the present proposal of ESZ for Kaziranga National Park has been submitted in isolated form without integrating eight adjoining protected areas.
Further, it was observed that the extent of the ESZ in most of the locations are almost zero and it is referred as zero to 6.2 km in the draft notification. The State Govt representative informed that the standalone ESZ proposal of Kaziranga National Park was prepared taking into account the observation of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) constituted by the Supreme Court,� the minutes stated.
Choudhury in his complaint lodged with the CEC said the main objective of the ESZs around national parks and sanctuaries, as per the December 4, 2006 order of the Supreme Court, is to create some kinds of �Shock Absorber� for the protected areas and act as a transition zone from areas of high protection to areas involving lesser protection.
However, CWLW, Assam, MK Yadava, while presenting the proposal for the ESZ around KNP, seemed to have totally forgotten the basic concept of ESZs and had tried to make a mockery of the entire ESZ around KNP by ignoring the December 4, 2006 order of the Supreme Court, he said.
The RTI activist also alleged that the CWL W also tried his best to favour the illegal mining lobby by keeping the Karbi Anglong mining area adjacent to the KNP, the KNP animal corridors out of the ESZ.