Highway widening near Kaziranga: bailable warrants against top officials

National Green Tribunal says presence of Union transport secretary and highway authority chairperson necessary to decide on plea seeking stay on widening of NH-37

 
By Jyotika Sood
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

The principal bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued bailable warrants against secretary, ministry of road transport and highways and chairperson of National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on a plea seeking stay on the widening of a stretch of the national highway-37 in the Kaziranga National Park.

The bench in its order on September 5 stated, “their presence before the Tribunal is necessary to adjudicate the matter in issue”. The bailable amount for the two officers has been fixed to Rs 10,000 each. The order came following a plea filed by wildlife activist, Rohit Choudhury, stating that road expansion will lead to road accidents and death of wild animals living in the national park.

Choudhury stated that according to the environment clearance granted to the Numaligarh refinery in Golaghat district, around 20 km from the boundary of the Kaziranga National Park, the stretch of NH-37 from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat was to be de-notified as a highway. The move was aimed to take the main road away from the Kaziranga National Park so that the wildlife habitat of the nearby Mikir Hills and Kaziranga National Park are protected. However, instead of diverting the existing road, government plans to widen it and contract for it was awarded in June this year.

He adds on that another condition stipulated for the environment clearance was that the work on the diversion of the highway should start before construction of the refinery begins and be completed before refinery is commissioned. However, the refinery started functioning, but the state and the Central governments failed to diver the road, he alleged.

NH–37 runs from Panchratna (near Goalpara) and traverses the entire width of Assam state. The total length of NH -37 is 740 km, out of which a 66-km stretch runs parallel on the southern boundary of Kaziranga National Park. The petition claims that on an average 5,000 vehicles pass through the highway every day.

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