SC admits ACT’s appeal against reduction of Eco-Sensitive Zone

Gangtok, 02 Nov:

Supreme Court of India,on 29 Oct, admitted Affected Citizens of Teesta’s [ACT] appeal against the order of the National Green Tribunal, Eastern Zone, Kolkata reducing the Eco-Sensitive Zone [ECZ] around protected areas from 10 kms to 25 meters.

The National Green Tribunal, Eastern Zone, Kolkata comprising of Justice Sonam Wangdi [Judicial Member] and Professor [Dr] PC Mishra [Expert Member of the NGT, Eastern zone, Kolkata] had upheld this reduction in a hearing held on 21 Aug last year following which ACT had petitioned the Apex Court.

Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman and Justice Navin Sinha while admitting the appeal filed by ACT and activist Gyatso Tongden Lepcha, also issued notice to the State Forest, Wildlife Management & Environment Department and Ministry of Environment & Forest.

It is contended in the appeal that the NGT has overlooked the guidelines framed by the Apex Court while dealing with the conservation offorest, wildlife and preservation of other natural resources adding that the order of NGT will have serious implications in conservation of the ecosystem which is the most important natural resource for development of the State.

In order to protect the biodiversity, the catchment area for continuous water resources for water-based industries, the luxuriant forest cover to mitigate the threat ofclimate change & global warming and to protect the National Parks and Sanctuaries.

In its judgment, the NGT uury had said that “the allegation made by the petitioner that a distance of 50m will not serve the purpose of acting as Shock Absorber to protect and preserve the protected areas from outer interference may not be applicable to the situation prevailing in Sikkim as in most of the cases the adjoining areas are reserve forests and there are restrictions for use of such forest for non-forests purposes, in terms of the Forest [Conservation] Act, 1927, in reserved forests.”

“The sole objective of identifying and notifying the ESZs have been dealt in the 2011 Guidelines and keeping the local conditions/situations and ecological factors in view, the areas are identified by an expert committee and we do not find the allegations of the applicant to be true,” the jury clarified.