Suryakant Jena

The National Green Tribunal, the country’s apex judicial body adjudicating environmental cases, on Thursday asked the Odisha government to notify the 14 elephant corridors in the State as identified in the Action Plan prepared by the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) and the State Forest authorities.

Hearing a petition filed by the Wildlife Society of Orissa, the Green Tribunal has asked the Chief Secretary, Odisha to issue a notification in this regard within two months of the order.

In the original application, dated 2016, the petitioner had sought the tribunal to direct the Odisha Forest Department to submit proposals for declaration and notification of 14 elephant corridors to the Central Government with further direction to the Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to take immediate action and to issue draft notification, and thereafter a final notification on the 14 elephant corridors.

While hearing the application, the NGT had noted that as per the latest elephant census carried out by the State government in 2015, Odisha has the largest population of wild elephants in eastern India which stands at 1977. The State has three dedicated elephant reserves. However, it does not have any specialised corridors for the jumbos.

The NGT has quoted Section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 while saying that elephant corridors being a part of the elephant ecology need to be prescribed and therefore, notified as ecological sensitive zones.

As per the NGT order copy, Odisha’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife)-cum-Chief Wildlife Warden presented details of the report identifying the 14 corridors in the State with a total area of 870.61 sq km. Later, the PCCF submitted a proposal to the Environment Department, Government of Odisha, in 2012 asking it to notify 14 traditional elephant corridors. However, till date no action has been taken, the NGT order mentioned.

The Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (ANCF) which was given the mandate to identify major and minor elephant corridors in the State of Odisha along with the work of assessing the habitat viability etc. and necessary action for notifying the elephant corridors, had submitted an action plan to the State government in this regard recommending implementation of various measures.