A public interest litigation has been filed in the Madras High Court Bench here seeking a direction to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and the Tamil Nadu Ministry of Highways to plant trees by the roadside.

The petitioner, S.M. Anantha Murugan, an advocate, claimed in his petition that a large number of trees were felled by the highway authorities to lay new roads and to convert the existing two-lane roads into four-lane.

A number of writs were filed in the High Courts to restrain the highway authorities from felling trees, the petitioner claimed. But they assured the court that they would plant three times more trees than the number that were to be felled, he added. The courts permitted the authorities to fell trees based on the assurance of the highway authorities, the petitioner claimed in his petition.

According to the petitioner, the Union government spent more than Rs. 75 crore on upgrading the national highways. To construct NH 7 from Kanyakumari to Varanasi, the highway authorities felled around 1.7 lakh trees, he alleged. Similarly, a large number of trees were felled to extend NH 6, NH 15 and NH 68, but the authorities failed to replace the felled trees, he claimed.

“The highway authorities collected toll from the public to maintain the roads and the roadside trees. No concrete steps were taken by the Central and State governments to plant trees. Therefore, the court should restrain the government from collecting toll charges from the public,” Mr. Murugan said in his petition.

He added that he submitted a representation to the NHAI authorities and the Tamil Nadu Ministry of Highways on August 14, 2013 urging them to plant trees by the roadside, but no action was taken.

A division bench comprising Justices N. Paul Vasanthakumar and P. Devadass adjourned the case by two weeks.

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