Union environment ministry says development work on Amrit Mahal Kaval grasslands violate green laws
The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has submitted an affidavit to the Chennai-bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), stating that the Amrit Mahal Kaval grasslands in Karnataka constitute a critical habitat for the endangered Great Indian Bustard. The environment ministry's affidavit was in response to a direction passed by the tribunal on September 27 while hearing a complaint challenging diversion of around 4,000 hectares (ha) of the grasslands in Chitradurga district of Karnataka.
The affidavit says the development work started on the alloted plots is a violation of the Environment (Protection) Act of 1986 as some of the project authorities have not obtained mandatory clearances. The 4,000 ha of grasslands has been allotted in parts to science and defence research institutes, including the Defence Research and Development Organisation, the Indian Institute of Science, the Indian Space Research Organisation and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
In its affidavit, the ministry states that part of the grasslands allotted to various organizations “has in fact been included in the list of deemed forests prepared in compliance of the order dated December 12, 1996, passed by the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) 202/1995”. It further says that “areas 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.”
The ministry, however, acknowledges that the Karnataka government has not passed any specific order declaring the Amrit Mahal Kaval grasslands as forests. The affidavit goes on to say that in any case the developers need to obtain clearances from the ministry because of its inclusion in the list of deemed forests before the grassland is put to non-forestry use.
The ministry says that during site inspection by its regional office on August 6 this year, it was found that the grasslands are habitat to a variety of wildlife, such as blackbuck, hare and sloth bear.
The matter is scheduled for a final hearing on December 19.
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