‘The proof was there right in front of us’
ON 19 April, the National Green Tribunal ( NGT) asked the MOEF to submit a site inspection report by 23 May on a number of industrial units functioning inside the No-development Zone near the Kaziranga National Park. We decided to look for the truth.
Our source had already informed us that quarries and crushers were operating with the government choosing to look the other way. Our main objective was to look for case studies in three areas: the NoDevelopment Zone, the Karbi Anglong Elephant Reserve and the area around the Kaziranga National Park.
On 24 April, we found a stone crusher in Borbheta under the Bokakhat sub-division near Kaziranga, where a giant automated stone crusher was at work and trucks full of stones were waiting to be unloaded. It was all in front of us, giving the lie to the government claim.
Before we could go looking for the owner, we were spotted by a group of 35-40 workers, who surrounded us and demanded that we hand over our camera to them. Photographer Luit Chaliha was roughed up and his camera broken. It was with the help of the local police that the situation was prevented from getting out of hand. The attack made one thing clear — that shutting a quarry in the region would prove to be an uphill task. Too many people’s livelihoods depended on the quarries for them to care about the ecosystem. It is this quandary that has been explored in the story.
On the upside, the attack woke up the administration and mining in the area has scaled down. What the state couldn’t accomplish, TEHELKA did at the cost of a broken camera.