Kaziranga’s no-development zone has 90 factories

Green tribunal orders closure of all industries that began operations after the zone was notified in 1996; others to use clean fuel

 
By Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered all industries that have sprung up in the no development zone near Kaziranga National Park after the zone was notified in 1996 to shut down. It has also imposed a penalty of Rs 1 lakh each on the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the Assam government for allowing the industries to operate in the restricted zone.

More than 90 units of stone crushers, tea factories and brick kilns have been operating in and around this zone; many of them burn huge amounts of coal with high sulphur content and discharge untreated effluent in the open.

Kaziranga, a world heritage site, harbours the largest population of one-horned rhino and is also known for its high density of tigers. In the mid 1990s, a petroleum refinery of IBP Petroleum was established in Numaligarh near the reserve. Fearing further industrial development in the region would disturb the ecology and wildlife of the reserve, MoEF in 1996, declared a 15 km area around the refinery as no development zone under the Environment Protection Act. It prohibited the expansion of industrial area, township, infrastructure facilities and other activities in the no development zone without ministry's prior approval.

However, ignoring the notification, several stone quarries, stone crushers, tea factories and brick kilns have mushroomed in the region. In December last year, Rohit Choudhury, an RTI activist filed a petition with NGT, complaining the stone quarries and stone crushing units were threatening the survival of rhinos, elephants and other wildlife species in Kaziranga and nearby Karbi-Anglong elephant reserve. The tribunal then asked the ministry to carry out an inspection of the area and submit a report on the status of industries operating in the no development zone and in 500 metres around it.

The Central Pollution Control Board then conducted an inspection on behalf of the MoEF in the region between June 28 and July 1 this year. Its report, submitted to NGT on August 7, shows 11 stone crushers, 22 tea factories and 34 brick kilns have been operational in the no development zone. Twenty-three stone crushers and three tea factories were operating within 500 metres of the no-development zone. NGT then ordered the industries built after 1996 to shut down. The industries that existed prior to 1996 and the ones that operate in the periphery of the zone will have to use non-fossil fuel for their operations.
 

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