Over 80 lawyers practicing before various courts in India have registered concern over the Uttarakhand Government’s decision to denotify the Shiva Elephant Reserve’s expansion reserve to expand the Jolly Grant Airport.
In a letter dated December 1, the lawyers have urged the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court to take suo motu cognizance in the matter and quash the November 24 notification issued by the State Wildlife Board to denotify the Shivalik Elephant Reserve.
The letter places on record the lawyers’ deep concern over the reckless decision to denotify the reserve following a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister, Trivendra Singh Rawat, on November 24.
“The decision prima facie appears to be hasty and short-sighted and taken without due consideration for the natural environment and wildlife conservation, despite the ongoing reality of Climate Change and rapidly rising pollution,” reads the letter.
It adds that the proposed development/expansion activity will threaten hundreds of fauna species, an elephant corridor and increase man-animal conflict. It would also require felling at least 10,000 trees and exacerbate soil erosion risks, it is stated.
The lawyers highlight that in moving ahead with the proposal, the State has completely lost sight of its duties and obligations under the Constitution to protect and improve the environment.
It is pointed out that the High Court itself has accorded the status of a legal person to animals, conferring on them special rights and declaring the natives of Uttarakhand obliged to ensure their welfare.
More recently, in Hospitality Association of Mudumalai v. In Defence of Environment and Animals and ors, a Division Bench of the High Court also reaffirmed the right to passage animals and the closure of resorts in environmental interest, it is recalled.
Against this backdrop, the lawyers have now urged the Chief Justice to intervene similarly in the present issue and set aside the denotification of the Shivalik Elephant Reserve and to protect the wild elephants in the State of Uttarakhand.