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‘Mental poverty’ when only development work carried out in forest: Jharkhand HC

The court made the observation when the issue of steps taken to reclaim fauna in Jharkhand’s forests came up while it was hearing a suo motu case on the death of two elephant calves in forests of Latehar district.

Written by Abhishek Angad | Ranchi |
Updated: September 17, 2021 5:33:39 am
The court was informed that Jharkhand has 29 per cent forest cover, translating into 23,615 sq km.

It shows “mental poverty” when only development work is carried out around forests without thinking of “connecting those forests” for easy movement of animals, Jharkhand High Court observed on Thursday.

The court made the observation when the issue of steps taken to reclaim fauna in Jharkhand’s forests came up while it was hearing a suo motu case on the death of two elephant calves in forests of Latehar district.

The bench of Chief Justice of HC Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad emphasised that there must be a serious effort to “bring back” the fauna, which the CJ said used to be in abundance earlier.

The court was informed that Jharkhand has 29 per cent forest cover, translating into 23,615 sq km.

P K Verma, principal chief conservator of forest and head of forest forces, told the court that all forest areas, barring one each in Palamu and Saranda, are not continuous and are only in patches. At this, the court responded: “Doesn’t this show our mental poverty? When we talk about development we should also talk about development of connecting two jungles…. We should have made elevated roads, so that animals have a connection to the jungle. We did not think about that, but now we need to act…”

All this, the court observed, shows “complete lack of planning”.

The court said the matter not only relates to death of the calves but the condition of animals in general.

When the court asked about the number of elephants in the state, principal chief conservator of forests, wildlife, and chief wildlife warden Rajiv Ranjan said, “In the last census, 678 elephants were found in the state. The next census will be conducted in 2022.”

The court then asked whether it was a sufficient number, to which Rajiv Ranjan said, “Historically, it appears to be…sufficient, as this number is creating a lot of problems for the human population.”

CJ Ravi Ranjan then said: “Why are the animals coming to the human population…Why are they forced to come to the agricultural field for food. There should be a study…A jungle without animals is like a body without a soul… What is the meaning of the afforestation to increase the forest cover only…No. How many animals are there in Jharkhand. There are no tigers in Palamu Tiger Reserve, and in Hazaribagh area. What has been the effort to bring the animals back.”

The government submitted that a study had been commissioned with the Wildlife Institute of India for connecting corridors for tiger movements. The court ordered the government to get the data on the next hearing on the numbers of animals in Jharkhand.

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