| Trucks Banned from
Sanctuaries in Jharkhand at Night
5th August, 2004
The High Court of
Jharkhand recently passed an order banning bauxite-loaded
trucks from driving through Palamau Tiger Reserve, Palamau
Wildlife Sanctuary and Betla National Park at night.
The order couldn’t have come at a better time.
Mortality records maintained by the Wildlife Protection
Society of India (WPSI) reveal that from 1997 to 2002,
vehicles have killed at least 24 leopards, 5 tigers
and 50 animals of various other species. These numbers
only represent animals that were discovered and recorded.
Countless other mortalities go undocumented.
The Jharkhand controversy started in September 2002,
when the state’s Chief Conservator of Forests
prohibited trucks loaded with bauxite or any other major
mineral from plying in the Betla Wildlife Sanctuary
at night. Immediately, the president of the Palamau
Pramandal Khan Mazdoor Sangh (Labour Union) filed a
petition contesting the ban, claiming it had adversely
affected their livelihoods. He also claimed that the
ban would only benefit the Peoples War Group and other
extremist organisations in the area.
However, the Advocate General of Jharkhand, arguing
for the Forest Department, proved conclusively that
the noisy, smoke spewing trucks were a threat to the
local wildlife and environment. He also pointed out
that an alternative route for the trucks existed, and
proved that there had been a rapid decline in the wildlife
population along the disputed route.
The petition was dismissed, and trucks will no longer
be allowed to drive through the area at night.
“We need many more such pro-wildlife judgements,”
says Sudhir Mishra, Advocate of the Supreme Court of
India and Principal Legal Advisor to WPSI. “Now
that the Jharkhand High Court has set a precedent, this
order can be quoted by conservationists fighting similar
court battles over roads in other parts of India.”