Days after The Indian Express reported the state government’s decision to relocate hundreds of crocodiles from Pond 3 and 4 of the Narmada Dam in Kevadia Colony to clear path for the sea plane terminal connecting the Statue of Unity, the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) on Saturday served a legal notice to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Secretary of Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest & Head of Forest Force (HoFF) of Gujarat as well as the chief secretary of the Government of Gujarat to stop the translocation, calling it “drastic and mindless action”.
The notice, which has also been sent to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, called the decision of the state government a “short-sighted (one) with long term impacts”. It also questioned the necessity of the said translocation and demands that it must be made known who made the decision and the consultation sought before executing the translocation of the crocodiles. “On what scientific and technical bases and supervision this action is undertaken? The drastic and mindless action of the Forest Department will result in destruction and degradation of the habitats of many species and undermine the multiple values and ecological services of nature. Let us not overlook the needs and habits of the crocodiles and other food-web species for some selfish, human-centric ends.”
The notice urged the recipients to reconsider their decision and follow the guidelines of the Wildlife Protection Act to preserve the crocodile species. It stated, “The purported reason given (for the translocation of crocodiles near the world’s tallest statue) is “Tourist Safety” but most likely this is being done for the proposed ‘Seaplane Project’. We strongly believe that translocation of crocodiles will cause further problems for this nationally vulnerable Schedule I species and result in multiple issues within the area for different stakeholders, including the authorities concerned.”
The notice further stated, “In absence of the known number of crocodiles in the present Lake 3 & 4, it is not possible to claim a crocodile-free water body. Moreover, there is also the possibility of crocodiles entering the dykes from adjoining water bodies that are at the distance of 18-20 km from the Narmada Dam and the main river course.”
Raising concern over the arbitrary translocation of crocodiles close to their breeding season, the notice stated, “The government’s decision to incarcerate and relocate crocodiles from their natural habitat is against the principles of ‘The Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972’. Especially such an act by the Forest Department which very well knows that this period is the breeding season of the crocodiles raises questions on their role in the management of wildlife and its habitat. More significantly, the importance of this species is illustrated by the multiple legal and policy efforts which have been developed by the Government of India to protect the crocodile’s population. Any activity which is against the survival of the highly protected species without having been approved by the State Wildlife Board and National Wildlife Board and the Government of India is patently illegal. There are established Rules, Regulations, and Policies to be followed before attempting to relocate scheduled species.”
According to Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, the organisation will file a petition in the competent court of law if the government continues its exercise to evacuate crocodiles from their natural habitat.