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A stone-crushing until near Kaziranga
Photo: Urmimala Bhattacharjee

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.”

Congratulations Ritwick!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

7 News Belize photo of Caye

7 News Belize photo of Caye

Belize television 7 News Belize reports that mangrove forests at Fisherman’s Caye are being dredged and filled for resort development. This caye is one of many tiny islands in the South Water Caye Marine Reserve, named a UN World Heritage Site in 1996. Following a recent visit, UNESCO’s Francesco Bandarin sent a stinging letter to Belize’s Minister of Natural Resources, complaining about “massive removal of mangrove forests”.

ELAW is working with partners in Belize to protect this and other valuable marine areas from destruction at the hands of developers. ELAW partner Candy Gonzalez, an attorney with the Belize Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, says that representatives from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee have visited the area in the past, but never addressed her organization’s concerns about the Reef. “This time, with a concerted effort, they did listen,” says Candy. “Though they refused to address the impact that climate change has had on the Reef, as raised in petitions we submitted in November 2004, they did admit that climate change must be a concern for all World Heritage sites.”

The World Heritage Committee meets in June. The hope is that the Committee will bring international attention to the destruction of Belize’s Barrier Reef System by moving this World Heritage site to the “in danger” list, rather than “red flagging” it.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

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