The Delhi High Court has sought the Centre’s response on a plea against a notification which reduces the area of the ecologically-sensitive zone (ESZ) at Chandaka Elephant Sanctuary in Odisha.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Anu Malhotra issued notice to the Environment Ministry, National Board for Wildlife, Department of Forest and Environment and Odisha government on the petition which claimed that the concept of the ESZ around the sanctuary has been “compromised”, increasing the probability of man-animal conflict.
The court has listed the matter for hearing on October 16.
“The government in its September 9, 2016 notification provided for reduction in the lower limit of the extent of the eco-sensitive zone to 500 metres from 2 km and higher limit from 8.99 kms to 7.34 kms in violation of its own guidelines,” the petitioner’s counsel Saraswata Mohapatra has submitted.
The plea by social activist Tapan Kumar Chakrabarti, said the expert panel constituted by the Centre to identify the ecologically sensitive areas in the country had strongly stressed the need of the ESZ to act as shock absorber against the adverse effects of developmental activities impacting the habitat of the flora and fauna.
“It also opined to extend the limits of the eco-sensitive zone around the sanctuary to 2 km-10 km as per the ecological sustainability of the landscape,” the plea has said.
It has alleged that the principal secretary of the state forest department had asked the divisional forest officer of Chandaka to revise the ESZ boundary merely at the instance of the state developers like the Industrial Development Corporation of Orissa (IDCO) and Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) to suit their vested interests.
The petition has also said that the notification dilutes the protection of wild animals in the sanctuary especially when the population of the principal animal being elephant has been continuously dwindling over the last few years.
It has said that the Centre gravely erred in approving the suggestions of the state government, overriding guidelines laid down by its own committee.