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State in fix on court order over eco-sensitive areas

Staff Reporter

Forest Department blames non-cooperation from other departments for delay in submitting report

BHUBANESWAR: With urbanisation spreading fast around the Chandaka elephant sanctuary on the outskirts of the capital city, Orissa Government is in a fix to submit an action plan aimed at regulating developments in wake of the apex court's order on declaration of eco-sensitive areas around sanctuaries.

Supreme Court on December 4 last had directed Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) to ask all State governments to submit proposals giving details of the measures to address eco-fragility around the sanctuary areas within four weeks.

The wildlife division of the Forest Department has so far not been able to submit affidavit on the issue due to lack of coordination among different departments involved in evolving a holistic approach for regulating the development.

When asked, Chief Wildlife Warden Suresh Mohanty said the department was preparing the response. "Regulating development of a city does not come under purview of forest department. But since the apex court mentioned department's name, we have already started working in this direction and will submit the proposal very soon," Mr. Mohanty said.

Sources said the Forest Department was aggrieved due to `non-cooperation' from other departments including urban development.

"Everybody is under impression that protecting wildlife is only forest department's look out. The department cannot alone decide what are the city's priorities. There should be a concerted effort," a top official of forest department, said.

Officials of Urban Development department, however, said detail of Comprehensive Development Plan of Bhubaneswar and Cuttack had been posted in the State Government's official website, if anybody had any objections, they should come forward in spelling it out.

As the shifting of responsibility continues among departments, the city has reached close to the sanctuary.

While the Infocity was planned at a distance of 340 m from elephant trench, a golf course was developed within 800 m and the vast structures of KIIT campus was surfacing at a distance of 2.20 km.

Other educational institutes, including Asian School of Business Management, could be found on the edge of the sanctuary.

Similarly, the State Government has signed a memorandum of understanding with DLF to set up Special Economic Zone, about 520 m away from the sanctuary limits.

"Time has come to draw clear-cut jurisdiction between city development and priorities sanctuary area.

The wildlife division seems to be safeguarding Chandaka sanctuary till elephants get killed either by poachers or due to loss of habitats. Proactive approach is visibly missing," Y. Giri Rao, an activist, who works on protected areas said.

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