Bring down the wall blocking Elephant Corridor!

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A human being can protect oneself because one has the ability to speak, express and communicate one's problems. What is an animal supposed to do to defend itself and its interests? Does "survival of the fittest" necessarily imply that one day all creatures of the wild will have to perish because they are not "fit enough" to survive in the world altered by us (viz. the "fittest' of the beings).

Elephants (Endangered on the IUCN Red List) are known to be one of the most sensible creatures.The instances of human-elephant conflict are often the creation of humans. The state of Assam in India is one such example where there have been many elephant deaths in the recent past due to destruction of elephant corridors-- which are vital routes used by elephants in moving from one forest to another. Herds of elephants suffer and even sacrifice themselves in accomplishing their innate nature of securing food and water resources for the herd.

India's National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) to demolish a high wall with barbed wires (bordering the Numaligarh Refinery Township and its Golf Course) that restricts an elephant corridor in Assam's Golaghat district. This order came in August 2016, and the NRL has been in clear defiance of NGT's order of wall-demotion and payment of fine of Rs. 25 lakhs to Assam Forest Department. 

Adding insult to injury, the NRL, instead of complying with the order, has filed a review petition in the NGT against its decision directing demolition of the wall. Thus, further delaying the process of bringing immediate relief to the poor elephants and the local communities facing man-elephant conflicts.

This 2 km long wall, in the Deopahar Proposed Forest Reserve, hinders the only route that the elephants in the region have in order to reach the water resource of Dhansiri river and blocks their traditional passage between Kaziranga National Park and the Karbi Anglong Hills.

Due to loss of this corridor, the herd of elephants has to stray in human habitation resulting in huge loss of life and property

Since the construction of this wall, about 12 elephants have died in an attempt to bring down the wall and access food plants and water resource on the other side of the wall. (The NGT had even referred to a video showing an elephant dying after it hit the wall). The NRL also cleared trees and flattened hillocks in this No Development Zone, where such activities are clearly prohibited. 

It is such an irony that the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change calls for protecting and conserving elephants in its Elephant Task Force's Gajah Report; whereas the NRL, (a joint venture between Bharat Petroleum, Oil India and Govt of Assam) which is under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas stands at odd with this aim.

As citizens, it is our responsibility to highlight this issue and uphold our fundamental duty by taking this measure to protect our National Heritage Animal. It is a call to BRING DOWN THE WALL and to SHOW SOLIDARITY with the cause of the local communities in Golaghat district and the elephants that have to suffer because the executives of NRL prefer to have their golf course and township built in a No Development Zone.

If this wall is demolished:

1. The elephant deaths will definitely be reduced once they have access to their former route to reach food and water resource;

2. There would be lesser instances of man-elephant conflict and the local community will not have to suffer loss of their life or property;

3. Most importantly, it will serve as a reminder and a  precedent to all such companies that the natural resources can not be compromised in the garb of unnecessary construction (such as a Golf course);

Further, The Deopahar Proposed Forest Reserve be given the status of a Reserved Forest. NRL should pay the fine prescribed by NGT and undertake "compensatory afforestation".

We shall continue to sign and circulate this petition as much as possible, so that it catches the attention of law-makers, legislators and mainstream media at least, and to make the wrongdoers see that this isn't a small issue. Numaligarh Refinery Limited will have to bring down this wrongfully built wall.



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