SC stays order on allowing buses inside Corbett Tiger Reserve
The apex court also issued notices to Union environment ministry, wildlife board, tiger authority, Uttarakhand government, state’s chief wildlife warden and the director of the tiger reserve
The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the implementation of an order allowing buses to ply in the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR)’s core area while issuing notices to the reserve’s director, the Centre, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL), National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and the Uttarakhand government.
Lawyer and wildlife activist Gaurav Kumar Bansal said the notices were issued in response to his public interest petition against the move.
No government lawyer was present during the hearing on Thursday and a copy of the order was expected to be available by the evening.
Garhwal Motor Owners Union Limited was in December allowed to operate a bus service for a maximum of 30 passengers at a time through the Corbett to reduce the distance between Kumaon and Garhwal divisions of the state by over 100 km.
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Bansal moved the court against the move, saying the order of the reserve’s director in this regard violated the Wildlife Protection Act and the top court’s orders on its protection.
Bansal called the move allowing the bus service illegal to “provide wrongful gain to a private sector company”. He cited the Act and said it required the reserve to be kept “as an inviolate area for the purposes of tiger conservation”.
“Not only has the law of the land been violated... but they have also compromised with the safety, protection, and conservation of the national animal..”
The Wildlife Protection Act says that tiger reserves shall not be diverted for ecologically unsustainable uses. Bansal said in case it is required, then it is mandatory for the government to seek NBWL’s approval and NTCA’s advice. He added none of this was done in case of allowing private buses in the core area.
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In December last year, days after Uttarakhand government allowed bus service from the core area of CTR, NTCA sought a factual status report from the state forest department over the move citing the violation of the Wildlife Protection Act after taking cognisance of Centre for Wildlife & Environment Litigation Foundation’s (CWEL) letter.
“It is clear…that tiger population at the Corbett Tiger Reserve is important for maintaining the viability of the entire Terai landscape and disrupting it by way of allowing bus service which shall pass through the core area of Corbett Tiger Reserve shall jeopardize one of the few viable tiger populations in the country,” the CWEL letter said.
The reserve is home to 231 tigers and is spread across 1,288 square km. Around 300,000 tourists visit the reserve annually.
There were no immediate responses to the Supreme Court order.