Don’t commence actual construction of highway in Western Ghats region without court’s permission: HC


Petitioner challenges greenfield project cutting through pristine rain forests

The High Court of Karnataka on Tuesday put a rider on the proposed greenfield highway, the Phase III of Chitradurga-Mangaluru inter-corridor of NH-173 between Mudigere Handpost to Nellyadi passing through the pristine Western Ghats, by stating that “actual construction of the highway” should not be commenced without permission from the court.

A Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice Pradeep Singh Yerur passed the interim order on a PIL petition, filed by Vinay Madhav, a native of Makonahalli in Mudigere taluk. The Bench also ordered issue notices to the State and Central government and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).

It has been said in the petition that NHAI had sought diversion of 60.13 hectares of land in the rain-forests encompassed in six reserve forests of the Western Ghats, a recognised biodiversity hotspot, for the project. And the NHAI has planned massive construction on several stretches of the highway without obtaining necessary clearances under Forest (Conservation) Act and in violation of Guidelines for taking Non-Forestry Activities in Wildlife Habitats under the Wildlife (Protection) Act. 

The detailed project report indicates the highway cuts through environmentally sensitive areas of Western Ghats and is within 10 km from Kudremukh National Park and Bhadra Tiger Reserve. The DPR, however, is silent on damage to environment and proposes compensatory afforestation, which cannot compensate loss of natural rain forests as per scientific evidence, the petitioner said. 

The proposed highway falls under the ecologically sensitive zones as identified by both Madhav Gadgil and K. Kasturirangan panels where road construction activities have to be restricted and passes through the catchment area of Netravathi river, the lifeline of Mangaluru, the petitioner claimed while pointing out that the region is already devastated by several projects, including HPCL pipeline and road, Yettinahole Water Diversion Project etc. The petitioner complained that the State Forest Department did not respond to his plea to restrain construction activities.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 9:25:16 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/hc-restrains-nhai-from-proceeding-with-highway-construction-in-western-ghats/article30107750.ece

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