The Supreme Court Of India has ordered an oil company to tear down a wall blocking Indian elephants from migrating.
It’s a win for the elephants as India’s Supreme Court decided that an oil company cannot decide to block migrating elephants from the forest just because it might interrupt their operations.
The legal battle over a large wall surrounding a Numaligarh Refinery Ltd. (NRL) oil refinery in Northeastern India began back in 2015 when video footage surfaced showing elephants desperately trying to cross a large concrete barrier as they migrated to new feeding crowds. At one point, a 7-year-old male elephant was discovered dead due to what experts called “severe hemorrhaging” due to repeatedly banging his body against the wall.
Environmentalists went to court in order to get the wall torn down, arguing that it was built upon the Deopahar Reserve Forest and was thus illegal. The entire area had been declared a “no construction zone” in 1996 by India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
Lower courts agreed, and NRL was ordered to tear the wall down in August of 2016. They did so, but only a small portion of the 1.4-mile long barrier was removed. NRL argued that the rest of the wall did not fall upon the nature preserve and this could remain standing.
Eventually, the argument went all the way to the Supreme Court of India, where a ruling was just issued on Friday of last week. In their ruling, the Supreme Court sided with the elephants writing, “Elephants have the first right of the forest.”
NRL has been ordered to tear down the entire wall and allow elephants free passage through their feeding grounds once again. Additionally, the oil company has been ordered to pay the state forestry department 2.5 million rupees (or roughly $35,000) to restore the area to its natural state and enact policies that will reduce human-elephant conflict.
Indian elephants are a critically endangered species. India has roughly 28,000 elephants remaining in the wild, with that number dwindling due to poaching and habitat loss.
(Source: Northeast Now)