The Assam state government has asked Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NFL), a public sector company, to demolish a wall that it had built on an elephant corridor, which posed a threat to the movement of pachyderms, near the Kaziranga National Park.
A calf had died in May this year due to the wall, which was built in 2011 on a hill close to the Deopahar reserve forest in Golaghat and the Kaziranga National Park.
The company said the wall was erected to secure a residential complex for the refinery workers who lived in the area. It added that the land was allocated to it by the Assam government.
Four years after the wall was built, the state forest department raised a red flag and said the allocation of land was done in violation of the Forest Conservation Act that empowers only the Centre to allow the diversion of forest land for non-forestry purposes.
“The land acquired by NFL is in clear violation of the established laws, rules and conditions. Further, the areas in question were serving as a critical wildlife corridors and part of a large ecosystem and catchment. The allotment of the land and subsequent construction of the boundary wall has spelled disaster to natural system,” said divisional forest officer, in a letter to the area deputy commissioner.
In response, NFL said that while constructing the wall adequate measures were taken to ensure the surrounding environment was not disturbed and that the township was developed after requisite permission was sought from the state forest department.
In his letter, the Golaghat forest officer also raised questions about the conduct of his own department with regard to this case.
The issue has now reached the National Green Tribunal, where an appeal has been filed accusing the NFL of destroying the local elephant habitat. The tribunal has sought replies from both NFL and the state on the charge.
The growing man-animal conflict has threatened elephants, and experts have said most of the conflict arises from increasing human habitations along wildlife corridors.