GUWAHATI, Aug 12 - RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury has filed a complaint before the Chairman of the Central Empowered Committee against rampant stone mining activities on the Karbi Anglong Hills, adjoining the Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNP & TR). Kaziranga is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The stone mining activities on the Karbi Anglong Hills are going on in violation of the Supreme Court of India’s December 12, 1996 order in Writ petition (C) number 202 of 1995, said the environment activist.
He said that in the last 20 years many observations were made in relation to the mining activities and stone crushing activities in the close vicinity of the KNP & TR and the harmful effects were highlighted, however no action has so far been taken to stop such activities. Some observations on the adverse impacts of stone mining activities in these areas on the KNP & TR were made by the Kaziranga National Park Authority, NTCA Committee, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, he said.
In this connection, he referred to the February 15, 1996 letter of the Forest Ranger, Kohora Range to the Divisional Forest Officer, Eastern Assam Wildlife Division. The letter said that the place where stone crushing industry is installed was lying just on the boundary of the Panbari Reserve Forest and about 300-500 metres south of the Park.
“This is perhaps the only undisturbed and protected habitat for the Hoolock Gibbon, the lone ape of India. The seasonal migration of elephants from the KNP to the Karbi Anglong Hills takes place through this area, said the Kohora Forest Ranger.
During the high flood period, the KNP animals, specially its deer population, move to the elevated area of Panbari, crossing the National Highway.
“When a stone crushing industry will come up in the area, the constant noise of stone crushing and other associated pollution will tremendously disturb the above ecosystem causing disturbance to conservation,” said the Forest Ranger.
The KNP Director in his July 25, 2007 letter to the Conservator of Forests, Hills, Karbi Anglong, said, “… the Mori Diffalo River constituting the southern boundary of the Kaziranga National Park is gradually drying up due to heavy siltation from the crusher dusts coming down from the crusher plants of Panbari area. As a result, the wild animals are not getting sufficient water for drinking and wallowing particularly during dry season….”
The site inspection report of the team of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest in 2009 said, “… The whole hilly areas facing Kaziranga NP is a prime elephant habitat through which elephants move in between Kaziranga and Karbi Anglong hills which is part of the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong Elephant Reserve and as such the committee feels that the no activities such as felling of trees, stone or soil quarry be permitted to keep the landscape fit for elephant and other wildlife. All the north facing hills of Karbi Anglong along Kaziranga NP should be declared as no-development zone.”
The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India, Government of Assam, Report No. 3 of 2014 (Performance Audit of Kaziranga National Park – Issues and Challenges) in paragraphs no.14.2.10 & 14.2.11 has stated, “14.2.10: Further verification by the Audit team and interactions with various stakeholders revealed that there is constant mining activity on the Karbi Anglong Hills adjacent to the NH-37. This disturbs the natural movement of elephants which frequent the Hills from KNP and vice-versa…”
Choudhury said while pleading for, among others, steps to conduct a site inspection of the adjoining areas of Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve and to submit the report of the same before the Registrar of the Supreme Court of India, to quash the Environmental Clearance granted to the mining lease holders and to take strict action against the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India / State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority, Assam as they have not taken into consideration the distance of the mining sites from the boundary of KNP while granting Environmental Clearance.