HC seeks report on damage to Hirpora sanctuary

HC seeks report on damage to Hirpora sanctuary
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Asks Wildlife warden to submit report or appear before court

Srinagar: The J&K High Court Tuesday directed the Chief Wildlife Warden Kashmir to submit a report on the quantum of environmental damage (flora and fauna) done to Hirpora Wildlife Sanctuary by government and private agencies, especially Sterlite Power which is constructing a power transmission line through the sanctuary.
The court directed the official to submit the report within two weeks or remain present before court on next date of hearing.
The court had previously asked the officer to submit the report on the issue but as the case was taken up Tuesday, no report was submitted by state counsel appearing for the department.
Taking a notice of the lackadaisical approach of the concerned officer, the court said, “We won’t tolerate non-seriousness of the officer. He should submit report within two weeks or else should remain present before the court on next date of hearing to show cause explanation why report has not been filed.” The division bench of Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey and Justice Sanjeev Kumar ordered.
On the previous hearing, court was informed about a status report dated August 7, 2017, filed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest stating that Sterlite Power had deposited a penalty amount with the J&K Wildlife Protection Department for damage it had caused to the Hirpora Sanctuary.
The division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur had remarked that in their view, merely deposit of a penalty amount cannot effect reparation for damage to the environment.
The court of Chief Justice had ordered that the Chief Wildlife Warden as well as the petitioner to place before the Court the damage (to the environment) on account of the violation by the respondent company.
“Both the petitioner as well as the Chief Wildlife Warden shall suggest what measures are necessary to ensure restoration of the Wildlife Sanctuary and to remove the ill effects of the omissions and commissions of the respondent. The report on these aspects must be filed within two weeks from today,” the division bench had directed. The PIL pertaining to preservation of Wildlife Sanctuary at Hirpora was filed by a group of lawyers –Bakht Parvaiz, Sameer-ul-Hamid Dar, Khursheed Ahmed Dar, Rayees Ali, and Junaid Rashid.
In the petition they submitted that animal species including the Himalayan Brown Bear, Himalayan Black Bear, Musk Deer, Leopard, Tibetan Wolf, Himalayan Palm Civet, and about 50 individuals of the critically endangered Pir Panjal Markhor, besides 130 bird species, were found in the Hirpora Sanctuary.
The petition pleads that government should start investigation and should take stern actions against the contractors engaged in laying of 400KV D/C transmission line through the sanctuary, and file status report regarding the damage done to the species
The petition reads that according to survey conducted by Wildlife Trust of India, there is 50 percent decline in the population of endangered Pir Panjal Markhor from 70 in 2003-2004 to 35 in 2013-2014.
“The 341 sq km (sanctuary) which is already under stress with the construction of Mughal Road has led to severe decline in the population of Markhor,” the petition reads.