Environmentalists said the National Board of Wildlife’s order last week sounded the death knell for the Okhla Bird Sanctuary. They said shrinking the eco-sensitive zone set a “dangerous precedent” for other protected forests and sanctuaries in the country. “Many builders have, in fact, concealed information and the environment ministry has turned a blind eye to it,” said Gaurav Bansal, who represented petitioner Amit Kumar before the National Green Tribunal.
“The order sets a very dangerous precedent for other sanctuaries, wherein, in order to regularise an existing illegality, a situation is created which can’t be explained in ecological terms,” said Manoj Mishra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.
K K Singh, the district forest officer of Gautam Budh Nagar, however, said that the boundary set as the eco-sensitive zone for the bird sanctuary was suitable.
“Eco-sensitive zones are site-specific. The 10-km radius was given as the maximum limit and with the intention of pressuring states to specify and notify the eco-sensitive zones. Tigers roam in an area of 5-6 km while elephants need around 10 km. Birds, on the other hand, fly for only 10-20 m around a sanctuary. The 1.27-km limit (the eco-sensitive zone on the Okhla Bird Sanctuary’s north) covers the floodplains and parts of the Yamuna. This will help check illegal fishing. On Saturday, we seized two big boats — each 20-30-ft long — that had entered the sanctuary. The poachers, however, could not be caught,” he said.
Anand Arya, a management consultant and bird watcher, who had gone to court after nearly 9,000 trees near the sanctuary were felled, said the notification was a “death knell, not just for the Okhla sanctuary” but for “all protected areas across the country”.
“First, you don’t know what you are required to do and, after you have served your personal gains, you come out with a notification. It is a death knell because out of around 150 proposals yet to be received or notified, as the CM of a state you could ask the Okhla proposal to be replicated. The whole action plan, the Environment Protection Act seem to have been thrown into the dustbin,” he said.
He added that the most damaging part was the environment ministry’s okay to a 100-m limit. He added that the most damaging part was the environment ministry’s okay to a 100-m limit.
He alleged that the UP government had not formed a committee to look into the ecological impact before determining the limit.
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