The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Uttarakhand government to stop construction of a road considered a critical corridor connecting Rajaji and Corbett tiger reserves.
The court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) informed the vacation bench comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Surya Kant the ongoing road construction does not follow the statutory approval from the National Board for Wildlife and the National Tiger Conservative Authority.
The court has issued notice to the Public Works Department on the interim-report filed by the committee.
The CEC sought the court direction to "dismantle structures including roads, bridges and culverts raised without seeking requisite statutory approvals and in violation of the apex court order on December 12, 1996."
These structures are apparently located along the Laldhang-Chillarkhal forest road in reserve forest forming part of Rajaji Tiger Reserve.
Advocate A.D.N. Rao, representing CEC, contended that the impact of the construction on the critical corridor would be irreversible, as it would adversely affect the habitat and wildlife of the ecologically sensitive area.
The CEC said the proposed road falls within the buffer area of Rajaji Tiger Reserve, and also passes through the elephant reserve.
Rohit Choudhury, a Delhi-resident, moved an application before the CEC seeking its urgent attention, as the road was under construction in violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and the apex court's orders of December 12, 1996.
The CEC petition cited the letter of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests' letter to the Principal Secretary, Forest and Wildlife, stating the construction work was temporarily stopped in view of precautionary approach.
However, it was concluded that "since the work is being undertaken as per the rules and regulations, it is not justifiable to further restrain the work" and that "there is no need to obtain wildlife clearances."
The CEC sought the apex court directions penalizing those involved and "pay exemplary ecological costs for destroying the critical corridor connecting the two tiger reserves."
The committee contended that the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in a letter concluded that the legal process has been overlooked by the government.