To check devastating forest fires, Uttarakhand High Court has issued a slew guidelines including ban on construction in 10 km area around the Corbett National Park and other protected areas, even as it directed the Centre to formulate National Forest Policy within next three months. A division bench of justices Rajeev Sharma and Alok Singh, which was hearing a PIL on forest fires in the hill state, ordered employing 10,000 fire watchers in the coming year to curb incidents of forest fires The court directed that an area of 10 km around Corbett National Park and such other parks be declared as eco-sensitive zone and no construction be allowed there. It directed the Gujjar people staying in the forest areas to vacate the land.
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“The state government is directed to formulate a policy to compensate the farmers who suffered loss due to forest fires,” the court said in its order yesterday. It also ordered erection of a stone wall around Corbett Park, provision of fire proof dress to fire fighter forest employees, and stern action against DFO, Conservator and other officials in case fire is not controlled within stipulated time.
In addition, the court also gave various directions to preserve wildlife in Uttarakhand. The bench said that in the year 2016 itself 922 forest fires were reported which ruined flora and fauna across 1890.75 hectares of land. It was argued that not only do these fires threaten human life but are also a threat to wildlife as well as the environment. To combat the problem, the court directed the Union of India to formulate National Forest Policy within the next three months.
Such policy must be directed towards forest management, conservation and increase in forest cover, it said. The court directed that no animal, be it tiger, leopard or panther, can be declared maneater within the state of Uttarakhand. The decision to whether an animal is a threat to human life will be taken by a high powered committee comprising Principal Secretary and Principal Chief Conservator of forest.
“Even then no pictures of the body of the animal will be released to the media. Nor must a local hunter be engaged to kill any animal,” the court said. If an animal is captured, it must be returned to its natural habitat, it said. The Railway has been directed to dig up trenches around electric poles and insulate the same so as to prevent animals from being electrocuted.