Assam Government has pleaded before the National Green Tribunal that regulated movement of vehicles be allowed in the Kaziranga National Park instead of complete restriction, saying the stretch is the lifeline for North Eastern states.
“Stopping of all types of vehicular movement will have cascading effect on the environment and protection of wildlife as it will lead to a huge pile of thousands of vehicles on the road running along the boundary of the National Park,” the Assam Government said in an application submitted before a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar.
The bench has asked the petitioner to respond to the state’s plea within two weeks and listed the matter for next hearing on May 12.
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The tribunal, on March 20, had directed that no traffic would be permissible on the roads used by animals as corridors for going from one sector to another along the Kaziranga National Park for five hours daily.
The Assam Government said in its plea that vehicles should also be allowed to move in a convoy led by an escort vehicle as is done routinely and restriction on movement of overloaded vehicles would be monitored in coordination with the traffic police.
It has also said the National Park authority would deploy ‘animal corridor wardens’ at designated locations frequented by animals during the monsoon season.
It, however, opposed the petitioner’s suggestion on the restriction of movement of cars during the monsoon except the local ones plying between Jakhalabandha and Bokakhat through the national park saying segregation of long distance vehicles is “practically impossible”.
While agreeing with petitioner, RTI activist Rohit Choudhury, that emergency services should be allowed, the state government has said that other utility vehicles like public transport shall also ply for the benefit of the local population.
The counsel for Assam Government has told the bench that installation of cameras on all the six corridors is under process and eight interceptor vehicles laden with speed gun have been installed on this stretch.
The bench had earlier directed Assam Government to hold a meeting with environment, petroleum and transport ministries to suggest ways to protect environment inside Kaziranga National Park, which is being “adversely” hit due to traffic movement on National Highway 37.
The tribunal had said that death of wild animals and reptiles on the 18-km-long stretch was a cause of concern.
The NGT was hearing a plea filed by Choudhury opposing expansion of the NH-37 stretch running through the national park claiming that “continued unregulated use of NH-37 is leading to death of wild animals and reptiles in large numbers in road accidents”.
A committee, comprising senior officials of Assam, Ministries of Environment, Petroleum, Transport as well as NHAI and others, was formed in December 2013 to identify whether underpasses or flyovers can be built in the area for vehicular traffic movement.
The committee in its report had recommended six sections of the road which were identified or specified as corridors, the state government counsel had said in the last hearing.
The Committee also had to identify the extent to which speed of vehicles shall be maintained and checked on the 18-km stretch of highway through Kaziranga, steps to ensure that no overloaded vehicles ply on that road, to prohibit use of horns and sirens in that area and installation of cameras and speedo meters.