Sixty illegal stone quarry near Kaziranga poses grave threat to the existence of UNESCO’s World Heritage site

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The one horned rhinoceros famed wild habitation of Kaziranga National Park (KNP) in Assam has been facing grave threat for both its flora and fauna from the ongoing activities of about 60 stone quarries near the National Park.

Though all laws for protection of wildlife habitation and wild life protected areas have been violated from activities of the stone quarries created near about 5 km from the KNP site, the concerned authorities have turned a deaf eye on entire development which harms the National Park.

KNP hosts two-thirds of the world’s great one-horned rhinoceroses, is a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. Kaziranga  was declared a Tiger Reserve in 2006. KNP is recognized as an Important Bird Area by Bird Life International for conservation of avifaunal species.

Most of these stone quarries falls under the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council (KAAC) Areas. The Golaghat – Karbi Anglong border near the KNP  have witnessed spurt of stone quarry activities in recent times.

It needs mention that the Supreme Court, on December 4, 2006, had said that all cases where environmental clearance was granted, where activities are within the 10-km zone of the protected area, be referred to the Standing Committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). But this order of SC have been violated in case of stone quarries’ activities near the KNP site.

Kaziranga National Park (KNP) authorities had carried out assessment of the stone extraction activities , stone cutting from hilly areas near the park site and other activities  of stone quarries near it. The assessment done by KNP, which is also a tiger reserve, that some of the stone quarries located right on the animal corridors are affecting animals movement, damaging the flood plains of Kaziranga and natural highlands of Karbi Anglong.

While the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) had in April this year asked for immediate ban on mining activities in Karbi Anglong as it poses a direct threat to Kaziranga’s ecology, KNP’s latest assessment of the stone extraction activities have reiterated danger to the protected area especially in flood time.

What has made the unscientific stone quarrying more damaging to KNP, the report pointed out that extracted materials are being dumped close to protected area.

The report mentioned that the extracted materials are dumped at as many as 40 sites between Kuthori and Bagori along the national highway 37. The materials are dumped in these lands in guise of earth-filling, but in fact they are kept for sale.

Several written communications of the office of the Director, Kaziranga National Park, and office of the Divisional Forest Officer, Eastern Assam Wildlife Division, addressed to various offices over the years highlighting the destructive nature of stone quarrying have repeatedly highlighted the importance of the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in its report dated April 20, 2018 addressed to  Assam government, had recommended steps to stop all stone quarrying/mining and stone crusher activities in the Kaziranga-Karbi Anglong landscape as they are seriously hampering survival and conservation of tigers, their habitat, co-predators and prey – including mega herbivorous ones – and their transit routes during annual floods.

In a communication dated July 6, 2018, the Director of Kaziranga National Park wrote to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Head of Forest Force, Assam, highlighting the violation of the apex court’s December 4, 2006 order and requested for closure of mining operations in the animal corridor areas of the Karbi Anglong hills adjoining the KNP and KTR.( Kaziranga Tiger Reserve).

But the State government, the offices of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, the Assam forest department, the Department of Mines and Minerals, the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority, the Pollution Control Board, etc., have not shown any respect to the apex court’s said order.

The entire development regarding the ongoing activities of illegal stone quarries near the KNP and apathy of concerned govt. agencies and KAAC have raised many questions and hence concerned environment agencies suspected that ‘money power’ of stone quarry mafias and its influence in Dispur is the prime culprit in posing threat entire KNP.

 

(Featured Image – DNA India)

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