GUWAHATI, Nov 7 - A report prepared by the Shillong Regional Office of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) submitted to the Additional Director General of Forests (Forest Conservation), MoEF & CC, New Delhi, has highlighted many violations committed by the State Government under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (FC Act, 1980).
It is learnt that the MoEF & CC was not aware of these violations till the time of inspection of the sites by its Shillong Regional Office, based on which the report No. RONE/NRL/NGT/2016-SHI/4561 dated, 17/01/2017 was prepared.
However, the MoEF & CC has allegedly been maintaining silence over this report. RTI-cum-environment activist Rohit Choudhury filed an RTI petition on September 7, 2017 to know about the steps taken by the MoEF & CC on these violations.
The Shillong office of the MoEF & CC said in its above report that though the State Government on August 18, 1999 had notified vide letter No. FRS 18/99/15 that it has proposed to constitute a reserved forest of 133.45 hectares as the Deopahar Reserve Forest, it later acquired the land through another notification (No.RLA.127/2004/6) on October 13, 2004 for extension of the township of NRL.
It further maintained that the existing extension township allotted by the Government of Assam, Revenue (LR) Department, Land Acquisition Branch, is a part of the Deopahar Proposed Reserve Forest (PRF) at the southern tip. An oil pipeline of the NRL also passes through the proposed Deopahar PRF, it observed.
It said that from the above area, the Government of Assam had diverted 1 hectare out of 9 hectares for the extension township of NRL (Government of Assam letter No. B/Deopahar/4856-60 dated 28.11.2016) and less than 1 hectare for the oil pipeline without taking prior approval under Section 2 of the FC Act 1980 from the Central Government. Therefore, this is a case of violation of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 by the State Government, the report said.
The State Government did not disclose the violation under Forest Conservation Act 1980. It was observed and found out during the site visit by the Regional Office, Shillong, the report said.
Moreover, it said there are other violations too of the FC Act 1980 inside the proposed Deopahar PRF by way of establishing tea garden adjacent to the extension township project of Numaligarh Refinery Limited.
Further, the State Government had constructed office building at the site of the Archaeological Department inside the Deopahar PRF along NH-39, the report said.
A firing range exists on the eastern boundary of the Deopahar PRF which is in use by the Assam Police. It is stated that part of the Deopahar PRF is an elephant corridor. During the field visit, it was found that this corridor is very close to the firing range. Hence, it may perhaps not be possible for the wild elephants to use this route due to the deafening sound of gunfire etc, it said.
Again, the No Development Zone (NDZ) is notified as per the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (Notification No. SO 481 (E) dated 05.07.1996). It also mentioned, “and whereas it is proposed to create a ‘No Development Zone’ within a radius of 15 kms around the said refinery site, except towards the northwest where the ‘No Development Zone’ shall extend right upto the eastern boundary of the said park”.
Additionally, it was observed that other developmental activities do exist in the NDZ. The State Government may institute an enquiry as to why other developmental activities are allowed inside the notified NDZ, said the report.