Lawsuit pits Andhra sanctuary against SEZ

New Delhi, March 4 (IANS) An environmental activist is set against a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) coming up near the Pulicat Lake bird sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh. And he has now turned to the Supreme Court to protect the wildlife habitat.

Hyderabad-based activist K.L. Vyas, who earlier headed a legal battle in the Andhra Pradesh High Court to save over 100 lakes of the state from destruction, has now come to the apex court to save the second largest brackish-water lagoon in India after Orissa’s Chilika Lake.

Spread over 481 sq km along Andhra Pradesh’s coastal districts of Elavur and Nellore and Tamil Nadu’s Thiruvallur district, the Pulicat Lake bird sanctuary faces a threat from the SEZ, which is being built within 10 km from it, Vyas said in his lawsuit.

Vyas has pleaded that the court direct private builder Sri City Pvt Ltd to stop construction activity. The firm was allocated the land by the Andhra Pradesh government for developing the SEZ.

The apex court registry has slated March 12 for hearing the lawsuit.

In his lawsuit, Vyas has alleged that the state government allocated the land to the private builder while suppressing the fact that Pulicat Lake bird sanctuary was located in close proximity to the site.

The lawsuit also referred to the Dec 4, 2006, order of the apex court, which stipulated that the Ministry of Environment and Forests would seek fresh examination of those development projects that have been accorded environmental clearance despite falling within a radius of 10 km of an ecologically fragile zone.

Accordingly, the lawsuit has sought fresh environmental impact assessment of the SEZ. The lawsuit argued that animals and birds require wide areas beyond the boundaries of a declared wildlife sanctuary for food, shelter and breeding.

The wildlife conservation strategy 2002, adopted during the 21st meeting of the Indian Board for Wildlife held in January 2002, stipulated that land falling within 10 km of boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries be notified as ecologically fragile zones as per the provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

Following this, the central government had written to all states to identify these zones on the outskirts of wildlife sanctuaries. However, the Andhra Pradesh government had gone ahead and allocated land for the development of an SEZ near such a zone, the petitioner said.

(Rana Ajit can be contacted at rana.ajit@ians.in)

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