New Delhi, November 30
The Delhi High Court on Thursday expressed concern over the Forest Department’s proposal to hold an event inside a wildlife sanctuary in the Southern Ridge here next month. The court has asked the authorities to show that the event was planned in accordance with the norms.
Justice Jasmeet Singh asked the Delhi Government counsel to place before the court the file relating to the proposal to hold the ‘Walk with Wildlife’ event in Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary. He observed that the area may have wildlife whose location is not clear.
On Wednesday, the issue was flagged before the court by the amici curiae appointed in a case concerning the conservation of the Ridge and the removal of encroachment from the area.
Justice Singh had then asked the government counsel to seek instructions, saying the sanctuary was not Masai Mara or Serengeti. Masai Mara is a game reserve in Kenya while Serengeti a national park in Tanzania.
The government lawyer on Thursday assured the court that the decision was taken “at the highest level” in compliance with all the norms and the object behind the event was to introduce people to the flora and fauna present in the sanctuary.
On being queried, an official present at the hearing said while he could not readily provide the number of wildlife in the area, several animals were living in the sanctuary, including eight to nine leopards, spotted deer, hyenas and monitor lizards.
Calling the event, which includes a cyclothon, a “very haphazard exercise”, Justice Singh raised alarm over the lack of knowledge with respect to the number and location of the wild animals in the sanctuary.
“This is a sanctuary under your control. You don’t know the wildlife. You don’t know their number. (But) you want people to get acquainted,” the court remarked.
“(What) if one leopard strays into the buffer area?” the court asked, after concern was raised about the safety of people there.
Amici curiae advocates Gautam Narayan and Aditya N Prasad argued that such an event could not be permitted inside a notified forest as it was prohibited under the law.
Narayan argued that only vehicular movement was permitted inside a forest and the Union Government’s policy on eco-tourism also did not envisage events as proposed by the Forest Department.
The Delhi Government counsel said the department had allowed people to apply for permission to join the event, proposed to be held on December 9 and 10.
“Only a two-day event is getting envisaged. The object is to make people aware of the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary... It would not cause any disturbance to the wildlife. The number of people is limited to 300, in batches of 40-50 people,” the lawyer said, adding all the activities would be conducted on the existing tracks in the jungle.
“Problem is with the number and the volume of people in a disorganised manner. You don’t know the number of people, who would ultimately come for the event. You don’t know where the animals are,” the court, however, said.
“We will have it on Monday. Show us compliance of all (laws),” the court told the Delhi Government counsel. — PTI
Slams dept over lack of knowledge
- Calling the event, which includes a cyclothon, a “very haphazard exercise”, Justice Jasmeet Singh raised alarm over the lack of knowledge with respect to the number and location of the wild animals in the sanctuary
- “This is a sanctuary under your control. You don’t know the wildlife. You don’t know their number. (But) you want people to get acquainted,” the court remarked.
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