Claiming that there has been no significant rise in mortality rate of animals in the past over two decades, the state government said that the road is an economic lifeline to areas rich in tea cultivation and coal and oil production and traffic movement cannot be restricted.
    
The park will open for tourists on Friday.
    
"The state government being a welfare state cannot ignore the welfare of the people who reside in lakhs in various townships in Upper Assam," the Assam government said in an affidavit submitted before the NGT.
    
"Further upper Assam is very rich in tea cultivation, coal and oil production, therefore, the state government is duty bound to protect the economic lifeline to that part of the state by balancing steps taken and to be taken to protect the wildlife of KNP area," it said.
    
"Records reveal that animal population in KNP is also increasing due to various conservation/ protection measures taken by the state forest department since 1991 while the mortality rate due to accidents has not shown any significant increase," said the affidavit filed by Assam Chief Secretary.
    
On the Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL) located near KNP and which supposedly adds to traffic on the stretch with trucks moving to and from the unit, the state said the MoEF should have monitored compliance of conditions imposed while granting clearance, which include diversion of the stretch bypassing KNP.
    
The NGT is hearing a plea filed by RTI activist Rohit Choudhury opposing expansion of the NH-37 stretch running through the national park claiming that ‘continued unregulated use of NH-37 is leading to death of wild animals and reptiles in large numbers in road accidents.’
    
The Tribunal had on October 9 directed the Assam government to apprise it about the steps taken and proposed measures to protect the wild animals of KNP.
    
The affidavit also lists the measures taken by Assam government like erection of road signages, speed breakers and night patrolling in KNP.
    
It submitted that it has already proposed to divert the traffic to four-lane highway which may reduce major volume of traffic on the stretch of NH-37 passing through KNP.

(Agencies)

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