Referring to the recent cases related to Mumbai''s Aarey colony and coastal road project, the top court said that time and again these issues are coming up before the courts and it would be appropriate that some norms are laid to deal with them.
"Deforestation is happening at such a pace that even before we come to know about it, everything will be lost. The Green cover needs to be valued and protected. The problem we are facing is that nobody wants to consider an alternative," a bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde said.
"May be an alternative could be created without felling the trees. It may be little expensive but it would go a long way in preserving the trees," said the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant.
Talking of water bodies in Nagpur, which were perennial source of water, the CJI said they are now covered by concrete and debris.
"We know, you don''t have the brains to develop new means of water conservation. But then why are you destroying the existing ones?", the CJI said.
The top court was hearing a plea of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) against the Calcutta High Court order of August 31, 2018, which paved the way for widening of the national highway and allowed felling of over 350 trees on the condition that five trees will be planted for each tree cut.
The project pertains to widening of Jessore Road, which connects the city to Petrapole on the Indo-Bangladesh border.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for APDR, said that scientists in their recent study have stated that due to deforestation, the climatic condition will become inhabitable in next 50 years.
"It is believable. Quite believable," the bench said.
It sought suggestions from senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for West Bengal, and Bhushan, in laying down the norms to deal with the issues of environmental protection and development.
"We have many similar cases before us some of which we have heard -- Mumbai''s metro car shed project, coastal road project, where trees are being cut. It would be appropriate if we lay down some guidelines to deal with the issues. Please give us your suggestions. How the valuation needs to be carried out in such instances?", the bench said.
The top court added that it needs people like some economists along with environmentalists in a panel for conducting a scientific exercise to estimate value of a tree taking into account the value of the quantum of oxygen it emits in its lifetime.
"The valuation should be taken into account while estimating cost of projects, which require cutting of trees. What you remove is quite expensive. The best solution is to avoid cutting trees. Some kind of trees needs to be preserved," it said.
The bench, while posting the matter for further hearing after four weeks said that when the report is prepared by the apex court appointed high-powered panel, it may be given to the petitioner.
On January 9, the apex court had constituted a panel of experts to suggest an alternative to felling of over 350 trees for construction of railway over bridges (ROB) and widening of National Highway-112 from Barasat to Petrapole on the Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal.
While expressing concern over cutting of trees, it had observed, "When we cut a heritage tree, imagine the value of the oxygen the tree produced all these years".
It had appointed panel including Professor Nishikant Mukerji, Managing Director of Tiger Environment Centre, Dr. Soham Pandya, Secretary and Executive Director of Centre of Science for Villages and environmentalist Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment.
The top court had asked the committee to furnish the report in four weeks.
The NH-112 or Jessore Road is an important link between India and Bangladesh and the state government had undertaken a project to widen it. Hundreds of old trees line both sides of the road, some of which were decided to be felled for the purpose of widening of the road. PTI MNL ABA SA
Disclaimer :- This story has not been edited by Outlook staff and is auto-generated from news agency feeds. Source: PTI