Upset by complaints of low-flying helicopters over a tiger reserve in Orissa, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has sought the intervention of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel in the matter.
Ramesh, in his letter to Patel on Saturday, said he had received a complaint regarding a low-flying helicopter over the Satkosia tiger reserve. "It is learnt that this has happened twice in the area in November 2009 and September 2010," the letter said.
"As you are aware, such low flights over wildlife habitats amount to 'hunting’ under the Wildlife (protection) Act, since it causes disturbance to wild animals,” said the letter, a copy of which is also in possession of IANS.
“The state authorities have lodged a complaint with the Air Traffic Management Unit, Civil Aviation Department, Kolkata in this regard,” Ramesh wrote.
“I would very much appreciate your intervention in the matter. An advisory from your end to all concerned for avoiding such low flights over protected areas would immensely help conservation,” the environment minister said.
In a separate letter, Ramesh has also sought the intervention of Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the matter.
Ramesh wrote the letters after Biswajit Mohanty, secretary of the Wildlife Society of Orissa, wrote to the ministry about the alleged movement of helicopter over the tiger reserve.
Oriya daily Sambad had reported earlier this month that Baijayant Panda, a Lok Sabha MP of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) representing Kendrapara constituency, flew in a chopper at a low height over the reserve without taking permission from wildlife authorities.
Although it did not say when the incident took place, the report said local residents and officials had seen the chopper fly over the reserve.
Panda's political secretary JP Ghosh, however, refuted the allegation and said the MP always flew with proper permission from the air traffic control. "He has never violated any rules," Ghosh said.
Satkosia is located over an area of 964 sq km along a gorge off the Mahanadi river. It was declared a tiger reserve in 2007.
The reserve - spread over four districts of Angul, Cuttack, Nayagarh and Boudh - is home to about 18 Royal Bengal tigers and more than 300 elephants, according to state government figures.