Deopahar
Deopahar and wild elephants near the NRL wall. Image credit - TOI

It took 20 years for the Assam government to issue a notification declaring the 133.45-hectare area of Deopahar in Golaghat district as reserve forest.

It may be mentioned that Deopahar was at the centre of a legal battle over Numaligarh Refinery Limited’s (NRL) boundary wall and its proposed township.

Also read: Assam: SC orders demolition of NRL boundary wall for elephants

The notification declaring Deopahar as a reserve forest came after the Supreme Court dismissed NRL’s petition, on January 18 challenging National Green Tribunal (NGT)’s 2016 order to demolish the boundary wall that came up on the then proposed reserved forest, blocking the movement of elephants, report TOI.

According to the report, though the Assam government had issued the notice on January 19 it became public only recently.

The notification said in the exercise of powers conferred by Section 17 of the Assam Forest Regulation
1891, the Governor is pleased to declare Deopahar as a reserve forest.

The issue of NRL’s boundary wall on the elephant corridor was pending since 1999.

Rohit Choudhury, environment activist and petitioner of the case in the NGT, said the declaration of reserve forest has at last given legal recognition to Deopahar.

the report quoted Choudhury as saying: “After two decades of waiting, the government declared Deopahar as a reserve forest following NGT and Supreme Court’s intervention in the case related to NRL’s boundary
wall. This is a victory for conservation.”

In 2016, the National Green tribunal had ordered demolition of the boundary wall constructed by the NRL authority that came up in the area in 2011 as it is part of Deopahar and also falls in the “no development zone” issued by the Union ministry of environment and forest in 1996.

The order of 2016 also said that NRL’s proposed township also falls in Deopahar.

The NGT had given one month’s time to the NRL for demolition of the boundary wall and ordered that the proposed township should not come up in the present location.

In 2018, dismissing NRL’s review application of 2016 order, the NGT had said, “In view of categorical findings already recorded by the tribunal that the area where the wall came up and the area where the proposed township is to come up is part of the Deopahar Reserve Forest, rehearing on merits is not permissible.”

In January 18, 2019, the apex court dismissed the review petition filed by NRL.

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