The Tamil Nadu government informed the Madras High Court on Thursday that it would not proceed with the denotification process of a portion of the Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary without the approval of the wildlife board.
The government submitted this information to the court in response to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the denotification, which is seemingly meant to benefit commercial and industrial development.
Recording the submission, the First Bench of Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy directed the petitioner to approach the central board for any relief and disposed of the plea.
According to Petitioner S Stalin Raja, the move has been made to benefit commercial and industrial development, including that of Sun Pharmaceuticals which has operations bordering the sanctuary, located about 75 km from here.
"While the state and its forest department is duty bound to protect all wildlife sanctuaries in its jurisdiction, the Tamil Nadu government is trying to give away a portion of the 72-acre irrigation tank preserved by the local villagers as a heronry and bird sanctuary since year 1790 for private industrial development," he had said.
Since 1998, the Vedanthangal tank and the area within 5 km of its boundary have been a part of the sanctuary with full protection of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
But on January 23, 2020, the Tamil Nadu government, relying on notes put up by the principal chief conservator of forest and chief wildlife warden, tabled a proposal with the state wildlife board to de-notify an area within three kilometres of the tank, he added.
The state has however claimed that the move to denotify a portion of the sanctuary had been made with a view of the Centre's orders of zonation of sanctuary areas. The areas were to be divided into core, buffer and eco-sensitive. But according to the Wildlife (Protection) Act, industries are not allowed to set in sanctuary limits or even in ecologically sensitive zones (ESZ) which are outside the protected area. Further the Wildlife Act does not allow red category industries (which includes pharmaceuticals) inside limits of the sanctuary, which in this case covers Vedanthangal tank and the surrounding five kilometres.