The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Union Ministry for Environment and Forests to examine the environmental impact caused by the cutting of over 6,000 trees for Noida's much talked about Bhim Rao Ambedkar Park project being executed by the Mayawati Government in Uttar Pradesh.
Impact on environment
A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justice Aftab Alam gave the direction after amicus curiae Harish Salve and senior counsel Jayanth Bhushan for the petitioner submitted that the MoEF had not granted environmental clearance for the project. The Bench directed the Ministry to consider the impact of the cutting of trees on the environment as well as on the adjacent bird sanctuary and submit a report in four weeks.
The Bench asked the Ministry to appraise the project from an environmental angle based on details and documents submitted by the UP Government and make its recommendation including the necessary environmental safeguard measures needed to minimise the likely adverse environmental impact.
The Bench directed the matter to be listed for further hearing in the second week of July after the submission of report, when it would consider vacating the stay on the project. The Court on October 9, 2009, had asked the U.P. Government to stop construction work for the memorial and installation of statues of various leaders at the park till October 26 but permitted it to do other related work.
The Ministry had said that “the total project area is 33.43 hectares and involving a built-up area of 9,542 sq m. As the total plot area is less than 50 hectares and built-up area less than 20,000 sq m, the said project does not fall within the ambit of the EIA notification 2006 and no environmental clearance is required for such kind of projects with measurements below the threshold limits, under the provisions thereof. Further the EIA notification is not attracted in this case, the question of applicability of general/specific conditions does not arise”.
The Central Empowered Committee, however, said that the U.P. Government should obtain environmental clearance for the project. Mr. Salve said “irrespective of the fact whether the land in question is forest or not, it has to be seen that the plantation done at taxpayers' money at the park could be removed without environmental clearance”.
Additional Solicitor-General Indira Jaising, appearing for the Ministry, said the government was willing to analyse the impact of felling of trees on the environment. She maintained that the land did not come under the category of forest land as the species of trees removed were not akin to forest trees. Senior counsel K. K. Venugopal, appearing for the U.P. Government, said the land was meant for recreation facility and 75 per cent of the work on the project had been completed. He said already Rs.350 crore had been spent and it should be allowed to be completed in public interest.