State forest department not consulted before corridor identification: Official in minutes
The Jharkhand government constituted a committee to identify elephant corridors in the state on January 7 despite such corridors having already been identified. States are now supposed to just notify them under either the Wild Life (Protection) Act (WLPA), 1972, or the Environment Protection Act (EPA), 1986.
The Chief Wildlife Warden of Jharkhand said the state’s forest department wasn't consulted before the corridors were identified, according to the minutes of the meeting, accessed by Down to Earth. As the corridors had changed since their identification, they would need to be identified again, the official added.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on November 14, 2018, had ordered the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to look into the possibility of notifying elephant corridors as Eco-Sensitive Zones (ESZ) under EPA.
On November 22, 2018, the 15th Steering Committee of Project Elephant asked elephant range states to either notify elephant corridors as ESZs under the EPA, or as Community Reserve or Conservation Reserve under the WLPA.
Elephant corridors are linear, narrow, natural habitat passages that allow elephants to move between secure habitats without being disturbed by humans, according to non-profit, Wildlife Trust of India’s 2017 report, Right of Passage.
The report has the officially accepted list of 108 identified elephant corridors in the country. “Seven corridors that were previously identified, were found to have been impaired in the last decade,” the report has said.
Of the 108 corridors, 14 are in Jharkhand and none of them have been notified so far.
Right to Passage was, however, approved by the forest department of Jharkhand, along with those of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, Meghalaya, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.
“The state government doesn’t want to notify elephant corridors as it’ll block development and mining activities in these areas. That is why it is talking about identifying the corridors again. It is just trying to buy time,” RK Singh of Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment, an environmental legal firm based out of New Delhi, said.
“Right of Passage has corridors which were identified by the Gajah report of 2005, to which the state government had agreed. How can they say that they have not been consulted?” Singh said.
Down to Earth’s calls to the Chief Wildlife Warden of Jharkhand, went unanswered.
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