Fact-finding team to visit Corbett

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Union environment minister writes twice to Uttarakhand CM, orders inspection by NTCA

TAKING NOTE of the TEHELKA reports (Corbett. Now, On Sale, 12 May 2012 and Fixing Corbett: Where to Begin, 19 May 2012), Minister of Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan has ordered a field inspection to ascertain the ground status of Corbett Tiger Reserve. As per the order issued on 21 May, NTCA member-secretary Dr Rajesh Gopal and member Brijendra Singh will visit the reserve and submit their report to the minister this month.

Earlier, enclosing the TEHELKA report, Natarajan twice wrote to Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and urged him to take immediate action. Bahuguna met Natarajan at her Delhi office on 22 May and discussed the issues related to Corbett Tiger Reserve. In her first letter on 12 May, Natarajan wrote that there was an urgent need to investigate all the issues raised in the news report by a high-level committee. The minister reiterated the urgency in her second letter dated 16 May.

“The matter is very serious and the situation warrants an urgent investigation by a high-level committee under the state chief secretary,” she wrote, adding that the committee should include two members each from the NTCA (an official and a non-official) and the state (one each from the Forest and the Revenue Departments).

The investigation, Natarajan wrote, should look into the issues of illegal land transactions, change in land use, encroachment, illegal construction of roads, corruption, etc. and submit its report within 60 days.

Meanwhile, the NTCA has finished drafting the eco-tourism guidelines. The environment ministry is expected to place the draft before the Supreme Court on 10 July. Hearing a PIl, the court on 3 April asked the ministry to prepare the said guidelines by 16 May.

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