The National Green Tribunal has rejected the Assam government’s proposal to engage manpower in place of installation of sensor-operated automated traffic barriers to control the death of animals in road accidents near the Kaziranga National Park. The green panel rapped the state government over its proposal and said except revealing the budgetary constraints there was no reason to go for the alternative proposal. The state government had proposed to engage additional manpower to monitor the animal corridor stretch of the NH-37 which passes from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat along the reserve. It had said that additional home guards or casual labourers, if engaged, would be an efficient means to control the speed of vehicles on the national highway.
The additional manpower in the highway can also be used for anti-poaching duty in the national park, Assam had said in its affidavit. “There is no material before us to suggest greater efficacy of the alternative in comparison with Automated Animal Sensor Barriers. “On the other hand all along, we find from the record, the recommendations for installing automated animal sensor barriers were being pursued. We, therefore, do not find any merit in the alternative proposal suggested by the State of Assam,” a bench headed by acting Chairperson Justice UD Salvi said.
The green panel said that despite assurance given to the tribunal on August 9 last year by the Additional Chief Secretary of Environment and Forest Department of the Assam government, nothing concrete has been done. It said that the state official had made a statement that the recommendations made by the Wildlife Institute of India for installing the automated animal sensor barriers will be followed and improvements would be made but nothing has been done. The NGT said that it would like to understand the budgetary constraints as told by the state government and how can it be overcome to install and commission sensor barriers within a fixed time frame. “We, therefore, direct Additional Secretary, Environment and Forest and Secretary in-charge, Finance and Planning (Additional Chief Secretary Finance and Planning) to remain present before the Tribunal on March 7, the next date of hearing,” the bench said.
The Assam government had last year told the tribunal that it had already spent an amount of Rs 1.45 crore on installation of animal sensor barriers at Malini in the Kaziranga National Park stretch to check speeding vehicles on the NH-37. Another amount of Rs 39 lakh will be required for purchase of two additional thermal cameras for installation in the same place, it had said.
Since the required fund was currently not available in the budget, the state government has decided to submit a supplementary demand in the next session of the Assembly, it had said. 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 tribunal had earlier said that any vehicle found crossing the 40-km speed limit on the NH-37 will have to pay an environment compensation of Rs 5,000, besides a fine under the Motor Vehicles Act.