SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday directed the state government and union of India to file response within four weeks with regard to Hirpora wildlife sanctuary.
The division bench comprising Justice Ramalingum Sudhakar and Justice MK Hanjura made the orders after it was informed that the sanctuary has suffered huge loss due to the 4000 KV D/C power project as illegal blasting was carried out in the area.
Advocate Bakht Parvaiz pleaded that the power project has immensely affected the fauna and flora of the area. “The Hirpora Sanctuary is a fragile ecosystem and damaging it under the name of development will cause greater harm to it,” he pleaded before the court.
The Indian Company Sterlite Power and its contractors Tata Projects have been assigned the project of laying 400KV D/C Sambha- Amargah which is supposed to provide power supply in Akhnoor, Rajouri, Poonch and Shopian areas.
The company was supposed to lay the power line and erect towers within the wildlife sanctuary on the condition that the work would be done manually so as to avoid damaging flora and fauna of the area.
The company took advantage of the breakdown of public order during 2016 uprising and flatly violated the directions of the Supreme Court on wildlife sanctuaries.
The company has used heavy machines to carry out illegal blasting in the sanctuary. The illegal blasting has destroyed the property in the surrounding areas.
The Company had to pay a penalty of 2.47 crores on the estimation done by a committee constituted by the government but the company has not paid any fine. “The company is continuing blasting and has erected towers with the help of heavy machines.”
Advocate Parvaiz quoted Wildlife Trust of India’s survey that there was 50 percent decline in the population of endangered Pir Panjal Markhor from 70 in 2003-2004 to 35 in 2013-2014.
“The 341 square kilometer area, which is already under stress with the construction of Mughal Road has led to severe decline in the population of Markhor,” he said.
Advocate Parvaiz argued that for laying a transmission tower in plain areas, the total cost is around 2 lakhs but at the same time raising a tower at a slope reaches upto Rs 20 lakhs but if the construction is done manually, then it will cost several lakhs of money.
The petition was filed by a group of lawyers including Parvaiz, Sameer-ul-Hamid Dar, Khursheed Ahmed Dar, Rayees Ali and Junaid Rashid.
In the petition, they pleaded the preservation of animal species including the Himalayan brown bear, himalayan black bear, musk deer, leopard, Tibetan wolf, himalayan palm civet and around 50 individual of the critically endangered Pir Panjal Markhor, besides 130 bird species are found in the sanctuary.
“Government should start investigation and should take stern actions against the contractors engaged in laying 400KV D/C Transmission Line through the sanctuary, file status report regarding the damage done to the species,” reads the petition.
As per the previous directions, a status report filed by State of Jammu and Kashmir through Commissioner/Secretary to Government, Power development Department, Development Commissioner (Power) J&K and Chief Engineer, Systems and Operations, Kashmir have submitted before the court that “other than placing indents for land, we are in no way associated or involved with the construction of the project. It is the union of the India under whose supervision the construction of the project is being carried out.”