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The road shall continued to be widened, but only 1006 eucalyptus trees are permitted to be removed from the 2057 trees that are planned to be destroyed as part of the road widening project: Uttarakhand High Court

The road shall be continued to be widened, but only 1006 eucalyptus trees are permitted to be removed from the 2057 trees that are planned to be destroyed as part of the road widening project is upheld by the High Court of Uttarakhand in the case of  Ashish Kumar Garg v. State of Uttarakhand and Anr. (Writ Petition (PIL) No.68 of 2022) through a judgement delivered by the division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra and Justice Ramesh Chandra Khulbe on 22 June 2022.

FACTS OF THE CASE

A writ petition of mandamus was sought by the petitioner against the respondents by filing a Public Interest Litigation in order to prevent the respondents from cutting trees for the purpose of extending the road from Sahastradhara Crossing, where about 2,057 trees were targeted for removal. The Court ordered that no trees be cut down by the respondent as part of the intended road widening.

The respondents then filed a counter affidavit in which they claimed that extending the road was essential for the proper growth of communication and promoting tourism in the State of Uttarakhand, and alternatively they suggested that valuable trees and fruit-bearing trees will be transplanted. However, they emphasised the need to remove other trees, such as eucalyptus, because they are not very eco-friendly.

Based on a report that said these trees were beneficial to the ecology and had a cooling impact, the petitioner expressed opposition to the intended removal of eucalyptus trees. Despite the fact that eucalyptus trees universally have a detrimental impact on soil conservation, soil texture, and the water table of the affected area, the Court did not concur with the report’s findings.

JUDGEMENT

In the instant case, the Court addressed the crucial issue of conflict between the need for development and the preservation of the environment and ecology. Finally, the Court approved the proposal from the State of Uttarakhand through the Executive Engineer, PWD, Rishikesh with a few changes.

The Court held that the road shall be continued to be widened, but only 1006 eucalyptus trees are permitted to be removed from the 2057 trees that are planned to be destroyed as part of the road widening project by the authorities and the Sub-Himalayan region’s precious fruit-bearing trees must be moved to a suitable location.

The Court also said that in addition to building the road and transplanting the existing valuable trees, the respondents must also plant the right kind of trees on both sides of the proposed road, per the advice of DFO, Mussoorie. Along with planting these trees, the State Government must also take appropriate action over the course of the following five years to safeguard them, provide for their irrigation, fertilise, etc., and report on its progress every six months. Accordingly, it was mandated that the initial report be submitted during the second week of December 2022.

Thus, the proposal to clear thousands of trees in order to widen the road leading to Sahastradhara, a popular tourist destination in Uttarakhand, received partial approval from the Uttarakhand High Court on the condition that the State will properly take care and replant the precious trees.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY NISHTHA GARHWAL

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