DEHRADUN: Uttarakhand High Court on Wednesday while hearing the public interest litigation filed by social activist Reenu Paul regarding denotification of Shivalik Elephant Reserve in the state, questioned the Chief Wildlife Warden, who is also the member secretary of the Uttarakhand State Wildlife Board pertaining to its recommendation to denotify the reserve.
Abhijay Negi, counsel for the petitioner told TNIE, "The division bench of the honorable court comprising Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice Alok Verma asked the warden to explain why the Jolly Grant Airport in Dehradun could not be expanded in a manner that does not harm the reserve. The court also questioned the Chief Wildlife Warden to explain how protectors of nature can perpetrate destruction."
Since no counter affidavit had been filed by the State Wildlife Board, the CWW was directed to appear in person before the division bench of the court.
During the hearing, the warden tried to explain to the court that the state was taking adequate steps for elephant conservation and pointed out to radio collaring of elephants.
The state government which has already filed a counter affidavit in the matter was further directed to submit a comprehensive report on the steps being taken by the state to conserve elephant habitat in the state and also to expand the Jolly Grant Airport in a manner which does not harm the notified elephant reserve.
Government of India has also been asked to file its reply by the court, said Negi.
The court had already stayed the recommendation of the board that provided for the de- notification of the reserve. The subsequent government order issued on January 8, 2021 was separately stayed by the court by order dated January 11, 2021 while pointing out the need for sustainable development in the state
The petitioner, in the petition highlighted the conduct of the state government before the court, pointing out that despite the stay order passed on January 8, 2021 as against the decision of the board, on tye same date itself the state government came out with the present denotification and therefore the present denotification also merits to be stayed.
The petitioner also stated that the said decision of the state government was being taken without obtaining prior approval of the central government and was in violation of the Forest Conservation Act.
The Shivalik Elephant Reserve, spread over 5,000 sq km in 14 state forest divisions was notified in 2002. The move has invited ire of local population, environmentalists and activists.