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The National Green Tribunal has directed Assam government to clear its stand on eco-sensitive zones and how it has permitted large-scale hotel projects to come up in and around the Kaziranga National Park – home to the famous one-horned rhinos.

A bench headed by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar also directed the secretary, Department of Environment and Forest of Assam government and Director, Kaziranga National Park to appear before it on the next date of hearing and explain the steps taken regarding the eco-sensitive zone around the park.

The panel asked the Assam government to clarify its stand in relation to declaration of eco-sensitive zones and how the state has permitted hotels to come up in and around the park.

“To put to rest any doubts, we direct that the State of Assam shall submit its clear stand in relation to: declaration of Eco Sensitive Zone, Pattas which were primarily for agricultural purposes and at best incidental residential construction; and how it has resulted in State permitting large scale hotels projects in and around the Kaziranga National Park,” the bench said.

The tribunal showed its dissatisfaction to the report filed on behalf of Assam government with regard to eco-sensitive zones saying it was not in compliance with earlier directions and orders.

The panel further asked the Assam government to explain its stand on Kaziranga National Park being a protected area and the normal distances from the boundary of the national park clearly showing prohibited and regulatory zones with respect to Supreme Court’s verdict.

During the hearing, counsel for Assam submitted that the state has already moved a proposal for issuance of Eco Sensitive Zone Notification, which is pending before the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).

The counsel for the MoEF also submitted that the Ministry was effectively considering the proposal.

The bench posted the matter for further hearing on November 26.

The tribunal’s direction came during a hearing on a plea filed by environmentalist Rohit Choudhury opposing expansion of NH-37 which passes from Jakhalabandha to Bokakhat through the Kaziranga Park.

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