New Delhi, Dec 5 (Ajit Weekly News) The Delhi High Court on Tuesday reserved its verdict on granting permission to the Forest Department to conduct an event titled ‘Walk with Wildlife’ inside the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in the Southern Ridge.
Justice Jasmeet Singh expressed apprehensions about the safety of participants, given the sanctuary’s inhabitants, including leopards, hyenas, and jackals.
On November 30, the court had expressed concern over the Forest Department’s proposal to conduct the event ‘Walk with Wildlife’ inside the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary, and Justice Singh had asked the Delhi Government’s counsel to present the file related to the proposal, stressing the need to ensure it aligns with established norms.
The judge, on Tuesday, reiterated concerns questioning the wisdom of allowing such an event within the sanctuary.
He pointed out the potential dangers, especially considering the presence of wild animals, and reserved the verdict after hearing arguments from both sides.
On Monday, the court had directed the forest department to address internal issues before moving forward with its proposal to conduct the event on December 9 and 10.
Amici curiae – advocates Gautam Narayan and Aditya N Prasad – said that Asola Bhatti is a protected zone, and no human activity should be permitted inside.
They raised concerns about the recent sighting of a stray leopard from the sanctuary in a nearby residential area, stressing the lack of manpower to capture it.
The amici curiae argued against the event, stating that it encroaches on an area designated for wildlife. They pointed out the absence of a plan to address issues such as noise and waste disposal during the ‘Walk with Wildlife’ event, which includes a ‘Walkathon’ and ‘Half Marathon.’
The Delhi Government counsel countered, stating that the event had received proper approval based on the management plan for Asola Bhatti, which lacks demarcated areas like core or buffer zones.
The counsel assured that only a limited number of participants (200-100 people) would be allowed in small batches.
Narayan contended that the event was not initiated by the forest department but by a trust, and approval was granted without due consideration.
He stressed the importance of distinguishing between a safari, which is regulated and planned, and the proposed event in a wildlife sanctuary. “This (event) is a slippery slope. This is a sanctuary…This is not a safari,” Narayan argued.
Earlier, while the government lawyer assured the decision was made at the highest level in compliance with regulations, Justice Singh had raised an alarm about the lack of knowledge regarding the number and location of wildlife in the sanctuary.
The court had questioned the safety aspect, particularly if a leopard were to stray into the buffer area during the event.
Narayan and Prasad had argued that conducting such an event inside a notified forest is prohibited by law. They had highlighted that only vehicular movement is allowed in a forest, and the proposed event contradicts the Centre’s policy on eco-tourism.
The Delhi Government counsel had clarified that the event was proposed for two days on December 9 and 10, limited to 300 people in batches of 40-50. However, the court had expressed concerns about the potential disorganised influx of people and the lack of knowledge about wildlife locations.
–Ajit Weekly News
News Credits – I A N S