NGT directs Auroville to pursue Crown project on panel’s advice

Visitors stand near the Matri Mandir, an edifice of spiritual significance for practitioners of integral yoga, in Auroville near Pondicherry.

Visitors stand near the Matri Mandir, an edifice of spiritual significance for practitioners of integral yoga, in Auroville near Pondicherry. | Photo Credit: AFP

The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed Auroville Foundation not to fell any more trees for the Crown road project until a Joint committee, appointed by it, conducts an inspection of the plan site and submits a report.

The NGT also directed the Foundation to prepare a proper township plan and obtain environmental clearance before undertaking construction in the project area earmarked for establishing an international township as envisioned by its founder Mirra Alfassa, or The Mother, the spiritual collaborator of Sri Aurobindo.

Passing orders on a petition by an Auroville resident Navroz Kersasp Mody, the Southern Bench, comprising judicial member Justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member K. Satyagopal, stipulated that the joint committee inspect the area and find out whether by reducing the width of the road at suitable places or through a slight realignment, the number of trees to be cut could be minimised in accordance with The Mother’s vision of creating a green cover.

While granting conditional permission to the Foundation to complete the Crown road “considering it as an exceptional circumstances, even before obtaining environmental clearance for further activity”, the NGT said the joint committee would have the Collector, who is the chairman of the District Green Committee, the Forest Officer not below the rank of Conservator of Forest, as deputed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, and the Chief Wildlife Warden, Tamil Nadu.

It directed the joint committee to ascertain whether there were any waterbodies/streams in that area. If the road passed through the waterbody, it should spell out the way in which the road would have to be constructed by elevation, without affecting the waterbody/waterflow, or with a bed-level causeway with a box type of vents. If such a recommendation was made, it would have to be implemented, and the Foundation should undertake the construction as suggested by the committee.

The joint committee must complete the process and submit the report to the Foundation Respondent within two months. On receipt of the same, the Foundation should carry out the work, in the impugned area with tree cover, strictly in accordance with the recommendations made by the joint committee, the order said. “Till that exercise is completed, the Foundation is directed not to cut any further trees from the property”.

The Foundation is free to undertake the road work in the remaining stretches where there are no trees and take action against unauthorised occupations, if any, in accordance with the law in force, the order said.

The NGT also directed the Foundation to prepare the township plan either in respect of 778 hectares, which is in its possession, or in respect of 1963 hectares, which was visualised by The Mother by identifying the locations where each zone will have to be located. The plan should also map locations where the roads will have to be laid, showing the location of the ring roads with their width and of more roads, if any, to be constructed, the nature of industries and other activities which are likely to be established in the township. The Foundation should also indicate the number of phases of work and apply for environmental clearance as it will fall under Item 8 (b) of the EIA Notification, 2006, as amended from time to time, the NGT said.

“Till then, they (the Foundation) are directed not to proceed with further construction in the project area”, the order said.

The issue reached the NGT in December amid an escalation of protests by a section of Aurovilians against the razing down of trees for the project and allegations that the Foundation was developing a township on the basis of a master plan that was not approved by any authority, and without a feasibility impact assessment study or a detailed project report.

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Printable version | Jun 13, 2022 2:55:38 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/ngt-directs-auroville-to-pursue-crown-project-on-panels-advice/article65366542.ece