The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu government to seal or close down within 48 hours 39 resorts and hotels constructed on an elephant corridor in the Nilgiris in violation of law. While 27 of them are given the two-day window to submit their approvals before the district administration, 12 will be shut down immediately.
A bench of Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice S Abdul Nazeer also expressed displeasure over the constructions. The court was hearing a batch of pleas relating to elephant corridors across India.
“An elephant is supposed to be a national heritage animal. This is how we treat our national heritage,” Justice Lokur remarked.
In 2010, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had declared elephant a National Heritage Animal in order to help conserve the country’s nearly 29,000 elephant population. The court, which was earlier told that several hotels and resorts had come up in the elephant corridor areas of Tamil Nadu, had ordered that no construction activity would be carried out in those areas.
The bench further asked the Nilgiris Collector to list all the buildings that had come up on the elephant corridor in July. Following that the district administration identified 500 hotels and living quarters.
“We gave the complete list to the Court. Some of them had permission while other didn’t,” explains Collector Innocent Divya. This is because the elephant corridor was notified based on a High Court judgement in 2009. “Buildings that came before that may have the requisite permission. The 12 buildings that have to be closed down immediately have been given 24-hour notices to evacuate people and belongings. We will abide by the court order,” she adds.
Activists and conservationists have welcomed the Supreme Court’s orders.
“By saving the elephants and allowing them uniterrupted access we are also conserving forests, water and in turn ensuring our well being,” says elephant conservationalist Mac Mohan. “The Nilgiris biosphere holds a large number of elephants and tigers. This order will help protect jumbos from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala,” he adds.
Earlier, the Central government had told the apex court that a standing committee of the Wildlife Board of India would consider suggestions, including making 27 corridors across India, for the safe passage of elephants and other endangered animals.
The petitions had referred to unnatural deaths of elephants on highways and rail tracks, by electrocution and said that areas earmarked for these animals were not sufficient.
With IANS inputs
Source: The News Minute