National Green Tribunal on Tuesday directed the state pollution control board to submit a report on the mining activities and stone crushers operating within and near the Ratapani wildlife sanctuary, nearly 40 kms from Bhopal. NGT also directed the state government to submit details about the 1,439 forest dwellers in Ratapani Sanctuary whose settlement has completed or not completed till now. The Tribunal asked the state government to have a clear stand on declaring Ratapani as a tiger reserve.
The Tribunal gave these directions while hearing petitions filed by activist Santosh Bharti and NGT at its own motion, in which activist Ajay Dubey is the intervener.
Petitioner Santosh Bharti said, “First, the land mafia around the Ratapani sanctuary was encroaching upon the land inside the sanctuary and many were converting the same into an agricultural land. Second, large numbers of teak trees were deforested and their stumps were burnt,” he said, adding, “there was not a single check post inside the sanctuary where he was stopped from entering into the sensitive zone.”
Bharti also pointed out that with regard to 1,439 forest dwellers, the state government had failed to file any reasonable record or document before the tribunal. He said in the absence of any record, it was hard to believe that the persons living in the notified area were encroachers or dwellers.
NGT in its order directed the state pollution control board to check whether any stone crusher was operating inside the Ratapani sanctuary. Tribunal said if there was any, the board should close it down.
The state government in its reply contended that no illegal mining was going on in the sanctuary area except isolated cases noticed in 2012 and 2015. State government also informed NGT that settlement of rights was made in favour of 1,439 forest dwellers within Ratapani Sanctuary. They were identified in accordance with the provision of the Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.