Any vehicle found crossing the 40-km speed limit on the National Highway-37 that passes along the southern boundary of Kaziranga National Park, will now have to pay an environment compensation of Rs 5,000, besides a fine under the Motor Vehicles Act, the National Green Tribunal said on Wednesday.
Concerned over wildlife deaths in road accidents near the home of the famous one-horned rhinos, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed the Assam government to erect speed breakers on this 66-km-long stretch within two weeks.
The green panel passed the order after the director of the park, who was present before it, conveyed that four animals were killed by speeding vehicles since January this year despite installation of sensor-operated automated traffic barriers to prevent such accidents.
“Why have these animals died despite installation of the barriers. You should take effective measures to stop these animal casualties,” the bench told the authorities concerned.
“Every vehicle which is challaned for over-speeding will have to pay an environment compensation of Rs 5,000 per accident over and above the challan as prescribed under the MV Act,” it said.
The NGT also directed the state government to take effective measures to contain animal deaths and said it should strictly monitor the speed limit prescribed for vehicles passing through the stretch.
During the hearing, the national park director told the bench that sensor-operated automatic barriers on NH-37 near Malini Camp of the rhino habitat have been installed.
He submitted that a total of four animals — two hog deer, one capped langur and one python — have died till April 30 after being hit by vehicles.
Three interceptor vehicles are at present in operation round-the-clock in the 66-km stretch of the highway running along the park to check vehicle speed does not exceed the 40-km-limit, he added.
Earlier, the bench had asked the Assam government and the director of the Kaziranga National Park to inform it about the number of animal deaths caused by vehicles along the highway.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by wildlife activist Rohit Choudhury opposing the widening of NH-37 which passes from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat along the reserve.
The NGT had ordered demolition of roadside shops and eateries along the animal corridors near Kaziranga, among a slew of directions in the wake of increasing wildlife casualties due to vehicular movement on the adjacent highway.
The Gauhati High Court, however, had stayed the order on razing of shops and ‘dhabas’ located within 100 metres of the highway.
The green panel had also asked the Assam government to install sensor-operated automatic barriers at the animal corridors and ascertain whether speed-check cameras were in working condition or not.
It had also directed the Union environment ministry to take clear instructions as to whether it was considering any draft notification with regard to Kaziranga Eco-Sensitive Zone.