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Authorities Must Ensure Compliance of Environmental Norms: The National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, New Delhi

Authorities executing a project need to be held responsible for ensuring that no illegal felling of trees is carried out, and that there is due compliance with all environmental norms, as was observed by the NATIONAL GREEN TRIBUNAL, PRINCIPAL BENCH, NEW DELHI, before the bench consisting of the Hon’ble Mr. Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, And Chairperson Hon’ble Dr. Nagin Nanda, Expert Member in the matter of Prabhat Srivastava vs. State of UP & Ors. [Misc Application in disposed of cases No. 61/2021 in Original Application No. 588/2019], on 5.1.21.

The present application filed sought enforcement of order of this Tribunal dated 25.03.2021 requiring the SEIAA, UP and District Magistrates, Prayagraj and Pratapgarh to look into the grievance of illegal felling of trees and filling up of water bodies in the course of construction of Meerut-Prayagraj Highway and take remedial action. The matter was considered earlier on 06.08.2021. The Tribunal directed the Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue, UP in coordination with the Irrigation and Forest Departments of UP and the CPCB to ascertain whether any ponds/water bodies and trees are being illegally destroyed in the course of construction of Ganga Expressway from Meerut to Prayagraj and if so whether remedial action is taken. In pursuance of above, an action taken report had been filed by the Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Revenue, U.P. mentioning the status of ponds and water bodies and cutting of trees in the course of the project of Ganga Expressway in 12 Districts of the UP State.

The National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, New Delhi, took due note of the contents of the report, highlighting that the report stated the number of ponds and waterbodies which are falling in the alignment of the Expressway, and their total area, and the area which needed to be acquired as it is coming in the Right of Way. The report also acknowledged the number of trees and plants falling in the ROW of the Expressway. Additionally, it was noted that the Government had issued a notification, according to which it laid down a policy that any pond or waterbody impacted by any developmental project will have to be compensated by procuring and reserving 125 percent of the area impacted.

The Implementing Agency, as per the report, was also supposed to ensure creation of waterbody in that reserved area. In compliance of the above, the report stated that an area of 49.26 hectare against affected area of 39.40 hectare has been reserved for the purpose on which water bodies will be developed and handed over to the Gram Panchayats. It was noted that the Project has been granted prior Environmental Clearance on 20.11.2021, the Specific Condition No:30 deals with the measures to be taken for ponds and Specific Condition No:4 deals with the trees and plants coming in the alignment. Accordingly, the concerned officers of the Departments along with the District Magistrates were directed that the provisions on the subject regarding compensatory works related to ponds/water bodies and trees being affected by the project should be ensured and no illegal felling of tree or destruction of pond/water bodies should take place.

In view of the report and the arguments, the Tribunal disposed of the application by directing that the concerned authorities may ensure compliance of environmental norms in the execution of the project which may be duly monitored at appropriate level of the UPEIDA in accordance with EMP. It was also held that should any grievance survive, it will be open to the aggrieved party to take remedy in accordance with law.

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Judgement reviewed by Bhargavi

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