Half a million trees proposed to be felled in 15 projects under consideration of Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of MoEF in 20- 21 February 2013 meeting
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NGT heard the case, Sanjay Agnihotri v.s. Union of India &Ors. (Application No. 01 of 2012) on 15 January 2013, which is related to critical pollution in NOIDA, UP. In this Case, an affidavit had been filed by Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India on 29 June, 2012, stating that NOIDA, UP whose CEPI score was found to be 78.90 is one amongst the 43 critical polluted areas and was ranked 12th in the list. The Tribunal observed that ‘It is obvious from this averments that NOIDA is seriously polluted area.’
Tribunal, thus, in this hearing ordered constitution of the following expert body who shall report to the Tribunal as to the extent of the pollution and the causes for the pollution in NOIDA.
NGT on 9 January 2013, in an application by Sree Bajrang Oil and flour Mill to review/modify a portion of the judgment of 7 September, 2012 delivered in Application No. 38 of 2011 related to ‘No Development Zone’ in the vicinity of Kaziranga National Park in Assam, did not agree to any modification of the said judgment. Thus, the previous judgment stands as it was.
National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the Kaziranga judgment had directed closure of stone crushers, brick kilns, tea factories using boiler operating with fossil fuel and other such polluting industries in and around ‘No Development Zone’ as per the Notification dated 5 July, 1996 issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest in the vicinity of Kaziranga National Park.
National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 9 January 2013 issued directions to the Central Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, Government of India, to notify the standards for sirens and multi-tone horns used by different vehicles even under Government duty.
The Judgment is based on an Application no. 36 of 2011 (Dileep B Nevatia vs Maharashtra State & ors.) filed under Section 18 read with Section 14 of the NGT Act, 2010, alleging, inter-alia, violation of the Noise Pollution (Regulation & Control) Rules, 2000 made under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 by vehicles using multi-tone horns and sirens.
The Applicant has said that about 4164 (four thousand one hundred sixty four) Police Vehicles in Greater Mumbai alone indiscriminately use sirens without any standards taking advantage of the fact that sound signals are not notified so far under the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989.
NGT keeping view on the judgments delivered by the Supreme Court and other Courts on various noise pollution related cases and Noise Pollution (Regulation & Control) Rules, 2000 and the limits prescribed under there by Ministry of Environment and Forest.
The Economics Times reports today (09.01.2013) that ‘the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has decided to approach the Supreme Court against the environment ministry's norms as a series of projects are held up due to green clearances.’
The fallacy of this perception is revealed from the fact that Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) it its meeting on 21-22 Dec 2012 has considered 29 projects and recommended 17 projects, amounting to a diversion of 46.87 sq km of forest for non-forestry activities. Out of three Highway projects only one required more information while the following two were recommended by the expert committee:
- Diversion of 118.33 ha of protected forest for widening of Bhuj Bachau Road km 0.0 to 77.0 km
- Diversion of 227.8045 ha forest land for construction, improvement and up-gradation of Delhi-Saharanpur-Yamunotri road (SH 57) in favour of Uttar Pradesh State Highways Authority
We had reviewed the Saharanpur-Yamunotri project proposal. It shows that the entire proposal has been prepared in a casual manner and no serious assessment of impacts has been done. The social and ecological impact of felling of over 1 Lakh trees has been undermined. For a proposal for diversion of forest in Uttar Pradesh a Certificate from the Collector of a District in Chhattisgarh (Mahasamund) has been annexed. Despite an extremely poor track record of Compensatory Afforestation in the concerned Districts (Short fall of 2189.438 ha) the proposal has been forwarded for approval. Misleading answers /information has been given in the application. The old growth trees have been shown to have no birds, reptiles and any other species of importance. No alternative alignment or effort to minimise the area of forest diversion and /or felling of trees have been worked out. Very little road side plantation would be possible as ‘only 2 meters on either side of the road would be available for strip plantation.’
The impact of such developments has been poetically stated in one of judgements of the Supreme Court. In ‘A. Chowgule & Co. Ltd. vs Goa Foundation & Ors.’ on 18 August, 2008 (Civil Appeal no. 5180 of 2011), the Supreme Court judgement read as “A small but significant example is the destruction of plantations alongside the arterial roads in India.” 30 years ago all arterial roads had huge peripheral forest cover which not only provided shade and shelter to the traveller but were a haven to a large variety and number of birds and other wild life peculiar to that area. With the removal of these plantations to widen the roads to meet the ever growing needs of the traffic, and their replacement by trees of non-indigenous varieties, (which are often not eco or bird friendly) in the restricted and remaining areas bordering the widened roads, the shelter for birds has been destroyed and where thousands of birds once nested and bred, there has been a virtual annihilation of the bird life as well. Those who live in North India would do well to remember that a drive along the Grand Trunk Road, National Highway No.1, northwards of Delhi, particularly during the hours of dawn or dusk, was as if through an aviary with thousands of birds representing a myriad of species with their distinctive calls reaching a crescendo during early evening and gradually fading into silence as darkness set in. Sadly, all that can now be seen are crows feeding on the decaying and mutilated carcasses of dogs and other animals killed by speeding vehicles. Equally disturbing is the decrease in the reptilian population as the undergrowth in which it lived and prospered has been destroyed and with the concomitant increase in the rodent population, colossal losses and damage to the farmer and in the storage of food grains.’ (Source)
Just imagine the pathetic sight of felling more than 1 lakh trees (a very high density – 456 trees per hectare) of species including Mulberry, Shisham, Alistonia, Acacia, Melia spp., Ficus, Bottle brush, Zizyphus, Bael, Kanji, Bauhunia spp., Kundu, Kath Saguan, Mahoba, Pilkhan, Semal, Pipal, Papri, Raunch, Siris,Sagaun, Toona, Junli julebi, Jamuin, Proposopis, Neem, Amaltas, Aam, Arjun, Gulmohar, Gular, Lisoda, Cassia spp. Kadamb, etc and destroying the associated habitat for innumerable species of birds including parakeets, owls, raptors and reptiles including snakes, mongoose, monitor lizard etc.
We ask here a question, is asking for due environment and forest impact assessment and scrutiny wrong? Is free-for-all damage to environment, felling of medicinal, fruit and sacred trees and destroying the home of wildlife living in them a reasonable demand?
We are sure, the Supreme Court would not permit such by-passing of green clearance processes.