India

Bombay High Court allows cutting of 22k trees for bullet train project, subject to conditions

The NHSRCL claimed to have received all requisite sanctions and approvals from statutory authorities to go ahead with the project in the event the high Court permits the felling of mangrove trees.

Mumbai,UPDATED: Dec 9, 2022 13:08 IST

The HC has given the go-ahead for felling of trees provided all statutory conditions are met.

By Vidya : The Bombay High Court on Friday permitted the National High Speed Rail Corporation (NHSRCL) to cut around 22,000 mangrove trees in Mumbai and neighbouring districts of Palghar and Thane for the under-construction Mumbai- Ahmedabad bullet train project.

The bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja added that NHSRCL will have to comply with certain terms and conditions set out in the approvals granted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC) and the Maharashtra Coastal Zone Management Authority (MCZMA) when the work is embarked upon.

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The NHSRCL had approached the high court seeking permission to fell mangrove trees in furtherance of a 2018 order by a co-ordinate bench. The order had put a total freeze on the felling of mangrove trees. However, in the event such felling was required for a public interest project, parties could approach the high court for the necessary permission.

Advocate Pralhad Paranjape, appearing for the NHRSCL, informed the court that the number of mangrove trees to be felled for the project had been reduced from over 50,000 to approximately 22,000.

Paranjape had assured that the NHSRCL would plant five times the total number of trees that were proposed to be felled. He disclosed that the MCZMA and MOEFCC had suggested two platforms located near the mangroves be shifted a little away so that the number of affected mangrove trees is reduced. This was accepted by the NHSRCL and the total number of affected trees fell from 53,467 to approximately 22,000.

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The NHSRCL also claimed to have received all requisite sanctions and approvals from statutory authorities to go ahead with the project in the event the high Court permits felling of trees.

The high court had in an earlier order directed that the Bombay Environmental Action Group, an NGO, be added as a respondent for their input on the petition. The NGO not only objected to the felling of trees, but it also prayed that no relaxation be granted for using explosives in the prohibited areas during construction activities in the project. The NGO also pointed out that no Environmental Impact Assessment had been conducted to assess the impact of felling of trees.

After hearing the plea at length, the bench had reserved the plea for orders on December 1 and it was pronounced on Friday. The detailed order with reasoning for allowing the plea would be made available later.

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