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Monday, August 27, 2012

Illegal construction of resort near Nagzira core area stalled

TNN | Aug 27, 2012, 01.28AM IST GONDIA: The construction of a commercial resort barely 5 metres from Nagzira Wildlife Sanctuary core area border was stalled on Thursday after sustained efforts by the green volunteers. An entrepreneur of Raipur had started resort work by flouting norms about a year and a half back, taking advantage of duel jurisdiction of forest and revenue departments. But Nisarga Mandal pursued the matter and the forest department finally stalled the resort work on Thursday. With the completion of Adani thermal power plant, the number of visitors to Nagzira was expected to go up substantially. Seeing an opportunity, Dr Jaffar Khan of Raipur purchased 8 acres land allegedly in the name of his tribal employees near village Jambli (Khamba) in Sakoli tehsil on the outskirts of the sanctuary. The work on the huge resort was started soon. Eyebrows were raised as no construction activity is allowed within 10km of the wildlife sanctuary. But the problem was that this area technically came under the revenue jurisdiction of Bhandara district while the sanctuary was under the Gondia jurisdiction. The developer was claiming that he had all the mandatory sanctions required for the project from National Board of Wildlife or revenue department, New Delhi. And the work continued unabated till recently. When Nisarga Mandal started opposing the resort citing the Supreme Court directives on protection of tigers and necessity for corridors, assistant conservator of forest (wildlife), Umarzari, issued a notice to Jaffar Khan on May 31. It said the construction activity had increased poaching in the area and a bison was killed on May 27. The letter also said the noise of generators and construction work was disturbing wildlife. It was also posing a hindrance to the proposed tiger corridor connecting Pench, Kanha National Park, Nagzira, Navegaon and Tadoba Andhari reserve. The department asked the developer to stop resort work and submit the various permissions and NOCs. Despite serving a notice, the construction was continuing till now. However, due to pressure from Nisarga Mandal, a team of forest and revenue department officials visited the spot and directed the developer to stop work immediately. The work was subsequently stopped. Ashok Khune, ACF (wildlife) of the newly formed New Nagzira Wildlife Zone, Umarzari, said the construction was hardly a couple of metres away from the core area border and needed to be destroyed immediately. Sakoli ACF (wildlife) DD Patle under whom the disputed construction comes said the developer had been asked to stop the work. "The developer has given a written undertaking that the work would not be started till he produced the requisite permission," said Patle. Speaking to TOI, Dr Jaffar Khan denied the allegations and claimed that such stories were spread by some officers of the forest department having vested interests. He said, "this was not a tribal land since the last 75 years as per revenue records. Moreover, these restrictions were applicable only for tiger protection routes and Nagzira was never a tiger project," he added. Swahila, wife of Dr Jaffar Khan Rubi Khan, purchased 2.25 acre land on February 27 last year. She obtained non-agriculture certificate from the tehsildar on May 12, 2011 and also a no objection certificate from Khanba-Jamdi Gram Panchayat after a resolution was passed on September 25, 2011. The land was measured by the revenue department in the presence of RFO, he said. Khan claimed that the caretaker at the site was forced by the forest officers to give an undertaking to stop construction on August 24. He said, "this was done without my consent and therefore was not binding."

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