Supreme Court  pulls up former Uttarakhand Minister, DFO for destruction of Jim Corbett Park

New Delhi, (| The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the former Uttarakhand forest Minister Harak Singh Rawat and Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Kishan Singh Chand for the heavy environmental damage at the Jim Corbett National Park and directed that the tiger Safari cannot be build in the core area.

A bench comprising Justice BR Gavai, Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra and Justice Sandeep Mehta said,” “It shows the nexus of bureaucrat and politician which resulted in heavy environmental damage and directed the government that if they wanted to set up such parks, an ‘animal-centric’ approach, rather than ‘tourism-centric’ approach should be adopted.

The bench had in January told the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) that it cannot have a tiger safari on the lines of a zoo within the national park. The Court while referring to the NCTA guidelines providing for tiger safaris only in buffer and fringe areas of such reserves, directed that Tiger Safari can be permitted in the buffer zone of Jim Corbett National Park but not in its core area

On the issue of illegal felling of trees, the court said this an important issue which cannot be ignored. It appointed Ex-Director General of Forests & Special Secretary Chander Prakash Goyal, Sumit Sinha and another to suggest more efficient management of tiger reserves.

“Experts in the field must look into it safari already existing in Pakhru not to be disturbed. But Uttarakhand to establish a tiger rescue centre. MoEF shall constitute a committee of representative of NTCA, MoEF CEC officer not below rank of Joint Secretary and wildlife authority. They shall recommend measures to restore the damages and quantify costs of restoration. Identify officers who are liable and the cost shall be recovered from them. Cost to be exclusively used for restoration of damage,” the Court further directed.

We are amazed at the audacity of the forest minister and Chand to have committed this. We are sure many others are involved. Since CBI is probing this we are not saying anything more,” the Court said. The matter pertains a case in which permissions were sought by the State government to set up a planned Pakhro tiger Safari project at the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand.

The tiger safari proposed at Pakhrau was on a land of 106 hectares, which is about 0.082 per cent of the total area at the national park, and 0.22 per cent of the buffer area of the tiger reserve. Senior Advocate ANS Nandkarni appeared for the State of Uttarakhand. Advocate K Parameswar served as the Amicus Curiae.

Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati appeared for the NTCA. The National Green Tribunal had in November 2022 directed that the Pakhro Tiger Safari project in Jim Corbett National Park be halted in view of the fact that around 6,000 trees were illegally cut for the project.

A petition was filed by environment activist and advocate Gaurav Bansal in the Supreme Court challenging the Uttarakhand government’s proposal in this regard. As per the State’s affidavit, Uttarakhand is home to 560 tigers with 260 at the Corbett Tiger Reserve which is spread across 1,288 square kilometers. (uni)