Renewing Licences to make a Killing?
Even aer a green tribunal restricted stone quarrying activities around the Kaziranga National Park, the state has renewed mining licences in the area, says
dranath Brahma through his letter ( KAAC/ F/16/2003-10) dated 24 March. The state government however maintains that no licences have been issued since December 2011.
In a landmark judgment on 3 March 2011, the Gauhati High Court had made it mandatory to have permission from the Ministry of Environment and Forests ( MOEF) before setting up any industrial unit within 25 km of the Kaziranga National Park. The order came in response to a petition filed by stone crusher operators around the park in 2003. The crusher operators had filed the petition after the Assam Forest Department asked them to furnish copies of approval of MOEF to set up stone-crushing units, under the Environment (Protection) Act 1986.
In the issue dated 12 May, TEHELKA had highlighted how illegal stone mining and quarrying were devouring the ecology of the national park. A petition filed in the NGT by activist Rohit Choudhury on 17 December 2011 alleged that the Assam government had wrongly issued permits to stone crushers in Kaziranga, violating a 1996 notification of the MOEF, which declared an area within a 15 km radius of the Numaligarh Oil Refinery as No-development Zone ( NDZ).
The notification says that operators needed prior permission from the MOEF to operate quarries in the area. Following Choudhury’s petition, the NGT passed an interim order on 15 February 2012 asking the Tarun Gogoi government not to renew or issue fresh permits to stone crushers or stone quarrying units in the area.
RTI replies on the issue of renewal of licence from the forest department and the MOEF clearly mention that the 14 stone crushers, whose licences have been renewed by the Chief Conservator of Forests Karbi Anglong, fall within 25 km of the boundary of the National Park. The crushers also fall within a 10 km radius of the proposed eco-sensitive zone and cut across elephant corridors.
At the time of going to press, no response was forthcoming from forest department officials despite repeated attempts to contact them.
• Stone-hearted A 15 km radius around the habitat is supposed to be a No-development Zone