ELAW partner Ritwick Dutta is winning the battle to protect Kaziranga National Park! Last week, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) found that the Ministry of the Environment and Forests (MoEF) and the government of Assam were failing to protect the park from polluting industries. The park, which sits at the eastern edge of the Himalayas, was declared a National Park and Tiger Reserve under India’s Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. In 1996, the MoEF declared the area around the park to be a ‘No Development Zone.’ Despite these protections, several quarries, stone-crushers, and brick kilns have been operating illegally around the park, threatening tigers, rhinos, elephants, buffalo, swamp-deer and other wildlife. Ritwick brought the case on behalf of a local resident who was concerned that government officials were simply acting as mute spectators while dozens of illegal and unregulated industries sprang up in the no development zone.
In its ruling, the NGT ordered the MoEF and government of Assam to close or relocate most of the polluting facilities and enforce pollution regulations for the few facilities that were allowed to stay because they were constructed before the no development buffer zone was established. The NGT imposed a fine on both entities for failing to protect the park. The fine will be placed in a fund designated for the conservation and protection of Kaziranga National Park.
The NGT also had this to say about Ritwick’s work:
“Before parting, we feel it necessary to express our appreciation to Shri Ritwick Dutta, Learned Counsel for the Applicant for the endeavourance made and pain taken by him to place different records and datas before this Tribunal to substantiate rampant violation of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986 at Kaziranga National Park as well as inside the No Development Zone.”