NEW DELHI, July 12 - The Government of Assam today faced severe criticism of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for death of several animals in road accidents in the Kaziranga National Park (KNP) and was directed to ensure their safety, especially during monsoons.
Expressing concern over growing wildlife deaths in road accidents in the national park that is home to the world famous one-horned rhinos, a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar directed the State government to take urgent steps to protect animals during the floods.
“The animals are dying in road accidents on a daily basis. What are your traffic sensors doing? Tell us, why the sensors are not able to protect these animals,” the bench said.
Dispur informed the green panel that till July 10 it has issued challans to 1,010 erring vehicle drivers on the NH-37 that runs along the southern boundary of Kaziranga National Park for overspeeding and overloading.
The State government’s counsel told the NGT that not even a single animal has died on the stretch, where sensor-operated automated traffic barriers have been installed.
The tribunal was hearing a plea filed by wildlife activist Rohit Choudhury opposing the widening of the NH-37 from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat along the national park.
Advocate Ritwick Dutta, appearing for the petitioner, alleged that nine hog deer have been killed in road accidents in the last 10 days and said urgent steps are needed for the safety of these animals.
The tribunal directed the counsel for the petitioner to identify the stretches where sensor barriers have not been installed so that it can be replicated in other areas.
The matter was fixed for next hearing on July 14.
The tribunal had earlier said that any vehicle found crossing the 40-km speed limit on the NH-37 in the national park stretch would have to pay an environment compensation of Rs 5,000, besides a fine under the Motor Vehicles Act.
The national park director had earlier told the bench that sensor-operated automatic barriers had been installed on the NH-37 near the Malini Camp of the rhino habitat. He also admitted that a total of four animals – two hog deer, one capped langur and one python – have been killed till April 30 after being hit by vehicles.
Three interceptor vehicles are operating round the clock on the 66-km stretch of the highway to book vehicles exceeding the 40-km speed limit, he added.