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Monday, June 11, 2012

MoEF to push for closure of units around Kaziranga

Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times After 16 years, the environment ministry will ask the Assam government to shut down industrial units operating within the 10-km radius of the Kaziranga National Park— a natural habitat for tigers, elephants and single-horn rhinos. In 1996, the ministry had declared the national park an eco-sensitive zone and thus it became a no-development zone for any industrial project. It was part of the ministry initiative to protect as many as 600 national parks and sanctuaries across the country. This would have meant that Assam government should have cancelled mining and stone crushing licences. But this did not happen. Hearing a petition filed by an RTI activist, the National Green Tribunal recently asked the ministry to close all units operating in the no-development zone around Kaziranga. A National Tiger Conservation Authority report in 2008 found that stone crushers were blocking a key tiger and elephant corridor. It suggested stopping of all stone crushers on forest corridors linking Kaziranga to Manas wildlife sanctuary. "Implementing the eco-sensitive zone regulations is the responsibility of state governments, not ours," a ministry official said, asking what they could do if the regulations were not implemented. "We have no powers to push state governments." The regulations, however, require that any project in an eco-sensitive zone should be cleared by the ministry. But the Assam government overlooked it and granted approval to stone-crushing units. The same had also happened in case of approval to mining firms around Sariska Tiger reserve in Rajasthan and Panna tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh, the only tiger reserves to have lost their tiger populations. "We will be writing to the Assam government soon," an official said. "...After going through the affidavit, filed by MoEF, wherein it has been clearly stated that 64 units are existing in the zone as on date, we have no hesitation to direct the authorities to take necessary action with regard to functioning of the aforesaid units," the NGT said. Only 12 tea estates can function without processing units or boilers.

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