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Ministry Of Environment And Forests Says Challakere Grasslands A “potential Habitat Of Great Indian Bustard”

Ministry files affidavit in National Green Tribunal (Southern Zone)

30 October 2013
Downloads:ESG Release on MoEF Affidavit in NGT on Challakere Case 30 Oct 2013

In obedience with the 27th September 2013 direction of Justice Mr. M. Chockalingam (Judicial Member) and Prof. Dr. R. Nagendran (Expert Member), constituting the Hon’ble National Green Tribunal (South Zone), in Applications 6 and 12 of 2013, the Ministry of Environment and Forests filed a common counter today before the Tribunal in which it agreed with the contentions raised in the Applications that the Amrit Mahal Kaval grassland ecosystems constitute a critical habitat for the Great Indian Bustard, which it said is “a critically endangered species”. The Ministry has also held that the Kavals constitute “a potential habitat of Great Indian Bustard”. (Emphasis supplied)

The Ministry has also confirmed that “part of the area allotted to various organisations”, such as Defence Research Development Organisation, Bhabha Atomic Research Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation, Indian Institute of Science, Sagitaur, etc., “has in fact been included in the list of deemed forests prepared in compliance of the order dated 12.12.1996 passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in WP (Civil) 202/1995” (Godavarman case, Emphasis supplied). And that “(a)reas which are having the characteristics of forests and identified as deemed forests irrespective of the ownership also require permission under Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for using them for non-forestry purposes” even as it has acknowledged that “(t)here is no specific order of the Government”, i.e., Karnataka Government, “declaring Amrut Mahal Kaval lands as District Forests”.

The Ministry has pointed out though that “(t)here are many areas within the reserved and protected forests, which are grasslands and similar to Amrut Mahal Kavals”. Further it is stated that “(d)uring the site inspection by the Regional Office of the Ministry of Environment and Foersts, Southern Region, Bangalore on 6th August 2013, it was gathered that the area used to support and is even now also supporting wildlife such as Black buck, Hares, Sloth bear, etc.” The Ministry says that “1200 ha out of the Amrut Mahal Kaval area allotted to various organisations has in fact been included in the list of deemed forest prepared in compliance of the order dated 12.12.1996 passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in W.P. (Civil) 2012/1995. Hence this 1200 hectares area, in any case, requires Forest clearance before it is put to non-forestry use and there is a case for examining the inclusion of remaining area also in the deemed forest as per the order of the Hon’ble Supreme Court since both the areas are similar”. (Emphasis supplied)

The Ministry has also stated in its affidavit that the Supreme Court in their order dated 6.7.2011 in the IA No. 1868 of 2007 in the matter of Lafarge Uranium Mining Private Limited and Others in the Writ Petition (Civil) No. 202 of 1995 that “if the project proponent makes a claim regarding the status of the land being non-forest, if there is any doubt, the site shall be inspected by the State Forest Department along with the Regional Office of the Ministry to ascertain the status of forests, based on which the certificate in this regard be issued. Therefore, the status of 9,473 acres of land as “forest” or “non-forest” is to be decided through joint inspection of the State Forest Department and the Regional Office of the Ministry, as per the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in Lafarge Judgment and interpretation of the Karnataka Forest Act and Rules framed thereunder”. (Emphasis supplied)

The Ministry also submitted in its statement before the Tribunal that “there is violation of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 in as much as some of the project authorities have started the work without clearance under Environment Protection Act, 1986”. (Emphasis supplied)

The Hon’ble Tribunal has posted these matters for final hearing on 19th December 2013.

The documentation relating to this case, including the affidavit filed by Ministry of Environment and Forests, may be accessed at: http://tinyurl.com/n76lvwc

Leo F. Saldanha

Bhargavi S. Rao

Party in Person

Applicant 6/2013

For Environment Support Group

Applicant 12/2013

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