GUWAHATI, May 30 - The Numaligarh Refinery Ltd authorities have surrendered one hectare of land belonging to the Deopahar Proposed Reserve Forest (DPRF) and the boundary wall they had constructed over that plot of land was demolished by the district administration of Golaghat on March 13 this year.
The State Government made the above assertion in its affidavit before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Review Application No. 29 of 2016 in Original Application No. 38 of 2011, Numaligarh Refinery Ltd versus Rohit Choudhury and Others. The affidavit was filed by the State Government in compliance of the NGT order dated May 17, 2018.
It said in the affidavit that this plot of land has been taken over by the Revenue Department from the NRL. This will facilitate free animal movement in the area as well as for declaration of Deopahar Forest shortly.
It informed the NGT that the NRL was handed over nine hectares of land through a land acquisition process by the Revenue Department, Golaghat in 2008-’09 for extension of their ownership. Out of this, nine hectares, one hectare was found to be from the originally notified area of the DPRF. The DPRF was originally notified in 1999.
The NRL constructed boundary wall over that plot of nine hectares of acquired land in 2010-’11. But, in compliance of the NGT order dated August 24, 2016, a joint survey was carried out by the Revenue and Forest Departments of Golaghat. During the survey, one hectare of that nine-hectare plot was found to be belonging to the DPRF, said the affidavit.
It further said that the balance eight hectares of land, under the possession of the NRL, is free from the proposed Deopahar Reserve Forest area. The DPRF was notified through a Gazette notification (No. FRS 18/99/15, dated 18.08.1999) by the State Government with land measuring 133.45 hectares and final notification is pending since then, said the State Government in its affidavit.
The draft notification for final declaration of the Deopahar area as a Reserve Forest has already been prepared, said the State Government.
Meanwhile, the NRL authorities have deposited an environmental compensation of Rs 25 lakh through an SBI cheque (No. 24004 dated 20.09.2016) in favour of the Divisional Forest Officer, Golaghat Division in accordance with the NGT direction, the State Government said.
It needs mention here that it all started with the RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury challenging in August, 2015, the allotment of DPRF land to NRL and the subsequent bid of the NRL authorities to develop a township over that land, with an application before the NGT. The NGT directed demolition of the wall constructed over that area as it was built on an elephant corridor. This was followed by a review petition from the NRL authorities.