SC orders closure of 11 resorts in TN elephant corridor

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New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu government to seal or close down within 48 hours the 11 resorts and hotels constructed on an elephant corridor in the Nilgiris in violation of law.

A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice S. Abdul Nazeer also expressed displeasure over the constructions.

"An elephant is supposed to be a national heritage animal. This is how we treat our national heritage," Justice Lokur remarked.

In 2010, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had declared elephant a National Heritage Animal in order to help conserve the country's nearly 29,000 elephant population.

Apart from 11 resort owners, the bench also directed owners of other constructions in the area to place their documents of approval before the Collector concerned within 24 hours.

The Collector will verify these documents and shut down within 48 hours any resort or hotel constructed without prior approval, the court ordered.

The court, which was earlier told that several hotels and resorts had come up in the elephant corridor areas of Tamil Nadu, had ordered that no construction activity would be carried out in those areas.

The court had asked the Collector of Nilgiris, where hotels and resorts have allegedly come up, to file a report on how these resorts can be identified, and when they were built and how.

The court was hearing a batch of pleas relating to elephant corridors across India.

Earlier, the Central government had told the apex court that a standing committee of the Wildlife Board of India would consider suggestions, including making 27 corridors across India, for the safe passage of elephants and other endangered animals.

The petitions had referred to unnatural deaths of elephants on highways and rail tracks, by electrocution and said that areas earmarked for these animals were not sufficient.