‘We Want Govt To Explore Alternatives Before Cutting Trees’ :Supreme Court Mulls Guidelines For Highway Projects

first_imgTop Stories’We Want Govt To Explore Alternatives Before Cutting Trees’ :Supreme Court Mulls Guidelines For Highway Projects LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK18 Feb 2021 3:38 AMShare This – xThe Supreme Court on Thursday indicated that it will lay down guidelines for the felling of trees for the purposes of highway projects.”We want the government to explore alternatives before cutting down trees for roads”, the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde observed while hearing a case against the felling of trees for a project in West Bengal.The bench, also comprising Justices…Your free access to Live Law has expiredTo read the article, get a premium account.Your Subscription Supports Independent JournalismSubscription starts from ₹ 599+GST (For 6 Months)View PlansPremium account gives you:Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.Subscribe NowAlready a subscriber?LoginThe Supreme Court on Thursday indicated that it will lay down guidelines for the felling of trees for the purposes of highway projects.”We want the government to explore alternatives before cutting down trees for roads”, the Chief Justice of India SA Bobde observed while hearing a case against the felling of trees for a project in West Bengal.The bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, further said that it might constitute an expert committee for such guidelines and also to value felled trees for the purposes of afforestation compensation.The bench asked the lawyers appearing in the matter, Advocate Prashant Bhushan(for the petitioner), Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi(for State of West Bengal) and Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta to suggest names for the committee.”The value of the trees must be computed on the basis of its contribution to the environment and not just the timber value. Trees produce oxygen. They bind the soil. Trees of a certain type, which have reached a certain age, should never be cut”, the CJI orally observed.The bench was considering the petitions filed by Association for Protection of Democratic Rights and Arpita Saha challenging the felling of trees for the “Setu Bharatam” project.A Court-appointed committee has valued the costs of trees which would be felled for the project at a staggering amount of Rs 2.2 billion.Senior Advocate Singhvi, appearing for the Bengal Government, took objection to the Committee valuation by terming it as “hypothetical” and “highly speculative”.Singhvi said that the project involved construction of 5 railway overbridges over a stretch of 6 kilometers. The number of trees which would be felled is 306. However, the Committee has reckoned the number of trees as 4000 by considering the project as 59 kilometers long.”The committee gives a bizarre figure. Taking the entire 59 km into consideration, they speculate that it will become congested over many years, which will hypothetically lead to widening and will hypothetically lead to cutting of 4000 trees over many moons. They have computed the cost of cutting 4000 trees over 100 years. The Committee says in the long run 4000 trees will be cut. You cannot run your imagination run wild. In the long run, we all are dead..”, Singhvi submitted.Solicitor General told the bench that he agreed with Singhvi.Prashan Bhushan, appearing for the Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, told the bench that the authorities have actually taken permission to cut 4000 trees.Singhvi reiterated that only 306 trees will be cut. “I am saying this in the highest court of the country. I can be pulled up for contempt if wrong”, he said.Singhvi said that tree valuation was a “fascinating concept” but the concepts must be rooted in ground realities. “This is a project for building five overbridges at railway signals where they have been overwhelming loss of lives. High principles are good. But we also need to factor in the human cost”, he added.”Our intention is to lay down certain guidelines for the road projects for future”, the CJI remarked.When Singhvi clarified that the project was not a road project but a bridge project, CJI replied that the bench was not talking only about the specific case at hand.”We are not concerned only with this 6 kilometers. We are concerned with things that are going to take place in future. We don’t want any adversarial attitude”, CJI remarked.The bench posted the case next week for further consideration. The bench suggested that alternatives like waterways and Railways should be considered before a road project. In case a road project is inevitable, the value of each tree should be “built into the cost of the project”, the bench added.Two months back, while considering a road project in UP, the CJI had observed “Why can’t the road take a turn around the tree? That will only mean that speed will be slow. If the speed is slow, it will lower accidents and will be more safer”.”The only effect that is likely if the trees are retained would be roads which may not be straight and therefore capable of high-speed traffic. Such an effect may not necessarily be deleterious since high-speeds on highways are known to cause accidents”, stated the order passed by the bench in the UP case. Subscribe to LiveLaw, enjoy Ad free version and other unlimited features, just INR 599 Click here to Subscribe. All payment options available.loading….Next Storylast_img

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