Golf course boundary wall obstructs elephant movement (India)


Nikhil M Ghanekar, DNA

Date Published

The alleged illegality of the boundary wall and the death of a male elephant calf has been well documented by the Golaghat forest division in May this year.

A boundary wall erected for a golf course in the No-Development Zone (NDZ) of the Kaziranga National Park, Assam, that resulted in the death of a male elephant calf and which also obstructs movement of elephant herds has drawn the ire of National Green Tribunal. In an on-going matter regarding illegal activities of stone crushing and brick kilns carried out in the park’s NDZ, the petitioner pointed out these alarming developments.

During a hearing on August 5, the petitioner alleged that the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd. (NRL) has illegally built a two-km long boundary wall for a golf course around their township and that this wall has not only obstructed elephant movement, but also resulted in the death of an elephant calf in May.

The petitioner produced photographs of an elephant herd bumping against the said boundary wall. In its order, the NGT’s principal bench chaired by justice Swatanter Kumar said, “The photographs have been placed on record to show that Golf Course has been made right in the midst of the Kaziranga National Park and the animal corridor in Kaziranga National Park are being interfered. That will not only disturb the animals but even effect the environment and ecology of that area.”

The bench added, “In the meanwhile, we direct that no excavation work or felling of trees would be carried out in the No Development Zone in the Kaziranga National Park.” On the request of the petitioner, the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd. has now been made a respondent in the matter.

The alleged illegality of the boundary wall and the death of a male elephant calf has been well documented by the Golaghat forest division in May this year. The letter of the Assistant Conservator of Forests, to the Divisional Forest Officer said, “The NRL has felled trees that formed part of a dense forest, measuring 5 hectares north of their township and excavated the land for construction of a golf course which is within the No Development Zone. This land is adjacent to the Proposed Deopahar Reserve Forest, and will cause extensive damage to the biodiversity of the land.”

In its examination of the elephant calf’s death, the forest division had this to say, “On spot verification it was observed that the elephant calf died due to severe haemorrhage owing to violent thrust. It appears since the corridor was blocked by Numaligarh Refinery Limited Township wall, the elephant diverted to hill terrain and fell down and hit some hard object.” The said wall, it added is clearly causing congestion, and is fragmenting forest habitat; the end result being blockage of the crucial path for elephant movement.

Along with the closure of brick kilns and stone crushing units, the petitioner has requested the NGT to direct the refinery to compensate for destruction of the forest land in the NDZ and restore it to the original condition.

Green reserve

·The Kaziranga National Park is the largest habitat of the vulnerable one-horned rhinoceros.

·Currently, it does not have a notified eco-sensitive zone that will regulate activity and accord protection to the adjacent areas

·But, in 1996, a No-Development Zone was demarcated to regulate activities around the Numaligarh refinery

·The Karbi-Anglong Elephant Reserve is adjoining to the Kaziranga national park