The location of West Bengal’s government-owned tourist camping station in the heartland of Buxa Tiger Reserve (BTR) is being changed as the National Green Tribunal ordered the Tourism Department to hand it over to the Forest Service after gross violations were found there in the Eastern Himalayan National Park.
The NGT’s main bench, headed by Judge Adarsh Kumar Goel (retd), said the camp could be used as an interpretation and training center for conservation and management by the Forest Department, instead of demolition.
However, if the facility is not handed over to the Forest Service within two months, it will be demolished, the recent order said.
The green court ruled that the campground was being used for commercial purposes not permitted in the heartland of the tiger reserve under the provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
The development comes after the petition of green crusader Subhas Datta, who addressed the tribunal and pointed out a large number of violations in the forest area – a wildlife habitat home to the Royal Bengal tiger – but which has been moved to a tax village converted by the state government.
Previously, the government had argued that the camp was a temporary structure.
According to the tourism authority, the camping site on the outskirts of the village of Jayanti was given to her by the forest authority. The camp site provides employment opportunities to villagers and the camp site was established before December 5, 1997, before the area was declared a national park, it has been argued.
However, the petitioner pointed out that the official website of the Tourist Board lists 31 tourist centers, which includes the current structure.
It also highlighted an advertisement in a major daily newspaper renting out various rooms, including air-conditioned and non-air-conditioned, as evidence of the commercial exploitation of the reserve.
Following the tribunal’s intervention, 20 facilities under the West Bengal government, namely the Tourism, PWD and Irrigation Departments in Jainti and the Homestays in Buxa were closed.
In the May 30 order, the bank said the 69 private facilities operating in the core area of the tiger reserve and on the banks of the Jayanti River were subject to legal action and would be shut down within two months.
The appeal also pointed to illegal river bed mining and rock crushing in violation of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, as well as other green violations.
In addition, the bank said that rock-crushing operations could not be permitted within 100 feet of the riverbank and ordered the state PCB and the county magistrate to take action within two months.
It also referred to an earlier order that said that protecting and improving the environment is directly related to people’s quality of life, so all environmental principles must come to the aid of the courts and tribunals to advance the cause of sustainable development .
Buxa in north Bengal, fringed by the forests of Bhutan and Assam, has not reported a consistent sighting of tigers for nearly three decades. Recently, however, an adult male tiger was captured after 23 years on a camera trap in the reserve.
BTR is a biodiversity hotspot and home to most species belonging to the feline family, including leopards. There are also common clouded leopards, jungle cats, and fishing cats. The herbivore list includes elephants, Indian gaur, chital, sambars, barking and hog deer.
(Jaison Wilson can be reached at [email protected])
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