SC asks U'khand to withdraw work order in Tiger Reserve

SC asks U'khand to withdraw work order in Tiger Reserve

Pictorial representation. Photo credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Uttarakhand government to withdraw the work order for the construction of a road passing through a corridor between the Rajaji and Corbett Tiger Reserves.

A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Deepak Gupta passed the order after the counsel appearing for Uttarakhand said the state would approach the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for obtaining approvals for the road.

The apex court was hearing a plea which sought a stay on construction of roads, bridges, and culverts on the Laldhang Chillarkhal Road passing through the corridor between the Rajaji and Corbett Tiger Reserves.

The bench said it is open for the state government to approach the MoEF in accordance with the law for obtaining the requisite approval under the provisions of Wildlife Protection Act.

Advocate A D N Rao, assisting the top court as an amicus curiae in the matter, said the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) has filed its report on the issue.

The state government had earlier told the court that not "even an inch" of widening of the road is going to be made there.

During the hearing on Monday, the bench expressed displeasure that some widening work was apparently done there despite the statement made by the counsel appearing for the state, upon receiving instruction from a senior government official, that no such thing would happen.

The state's counsel told the bench that no new widening of road was done there.

"When a senior officer of the government is making a statement in the court, he should be aware of what he is saying," the bench observed.

The CEC had earlier told the bench that the state action of allowing construction of the road in the forest area was violative of the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act.

The CEC counsel, referring to an earlier report of the committee, had said that the road falls within the buffer area of Rajaji Tiger Reserve and advice of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) was not taken while allowing the construction.

On June 21, the apex court had stayed the construction of the road noting that there were "numerous" violations of the Forest Conservation Act.

According to the CEC's earlier report, the road was being constructed without statutory approval of National Board for Wildlife and in violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 and the Forest Conservation Act.

The bench had also sought the response of the state government on the plea which had sought the dismantling of all illegal structures including roads, bridges, culverts raised without requisite approvals.

The plea had also sought fixing of responsibility on the officers who have allowed illegal construction works on the Laldhang-Chillarkhal Forest road claiming that it was a clear violation of the Wildlife Protection Act and the Forest Conservation Act.

Earlier, the National Green Tribunal had constituted a committee, drawing representatives from various departments including wildlife, to provide it a factual report on alleged illegal construction of a road for use by commercial vehicles in the ecologically sensitive Rajaji Tiger Reserve.

The tribunal's direction had come on a petition which alleged that the road is being built in the tiger reserve without statutory clearances and requisite safeguards.