Seemai Karuvelam: HC ropes in NEERI

Invasive: The Madras HC has asked the State government to send a comprehensive report to NEERI on the ill-effects of Seemai Karuvelam on groundwater level.

Invasive: The Madras HC has asked the State government to send a comprehensive report to NEERI on the ill-effects of Seemai Karuvelam on groundwater level.   | Photo Credit: G_Krishnaswamy

Batch of petitions on ill-effects of invasive species on groundwater to be heard on June 10

The Madras High Court on Monday called for a report from National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) at Nagpur on the supposed ill-effects of Seemai Karuvelam (prosopis juliflora) trees, an invasive species found across the State, on the environment, with particular reference to the water table.

A Full Bench comprising Chief Justice Amreshwar Pratap Sahi, Justice M.M. Sundresh and Justice M. Sundar took the decision at the instance of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary Vaiko, an MP, who appeared as a party-in-person and insisted upon eradicating the species to save the water table.

It was in 2017 that a Bench of Justices A. Selvam and P. Kalaiyarasan (since retired) had begun a crusade against Seemai Karuvelam trees by not just ordering their eradication but also by forming a team of 180 advocate commissioners to supervise the work done by government officials besides instructing the judicial officers to over see the work.

Funds were solicited for the work and a separate bank account was opened in the Indian Bank branch inside the premises of the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court. However, subsequently, the case was referred to a Full Bench of the court since doubts were raised over the appropriateness of terming the species as harmful without conclusive scientific evidence.

In May 2017, a Full Bench led by the then Chief Justice Indira Banerjee added four more members to a government-constituted eight-member committee, under the chairmanship of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Research), and directed it to submit a report after conducting a detailed study on the supposed ill-effects of Seemai Karuvelam.

Hearing delayed

Although the committee had submitted its report on October 9, 2017, the case was not taken up for hearing after that until the incumbent Chief Justice noticed the delay and decided to take up the case on Monday when advocate T. Mohan, representing a public interest litigant, claimed that there were many inconsistencies in the report submitted by the committee.

He said the committee had at one place stated the most observed negative impact of Seemai Karuvelam was on water channels and waterbodies and at another stated that it did not affect groundwater level. He said the report contradicted itself from page to page.

At this point, Mr. Vaiko urged the court to include an expert from NEERI into the committee. After considering his plea, the court directed the petitioners before the court to submit before the committee, all materials that were available with them to prove the deleterious effect of Seemai Karuvelam so that it could file another comprehensive report to the government.

On receipt of such report, the State government was directed to forward both the reports to NEERI for examination. Finally, the material should be collected and placed before the court preferably within three months, the judges ordered and adjourned hearing on the batch of cases to June 10.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 11:17:37 AM |

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