The Supreme Court on Thursday noted that it was inclined to nullify the Centre’s notification which exempted the authorities from undertaking Environment Impact Assessment in case a road project is less than 100 kilometres long, PTI reported.
The court made the observation while hearing a petition against the felling of more than 300 trees for the construction of railway over bridges in West Bengal and the widening of a highway on the Indo-Bangladesh border.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said it was concerned about degradation of the environment because of road projects and suggested waterways as an alternative.
The court said that a lot of trees would be cut for the road-widening project and “prima facie we inclined to strike down the notification [about the exemption from EIA]”, according to PTI. The bench noted that in case it was inevitable to undertake a road project, the value of every tree should be built into the project’s cost
Bobde asked Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati to assess if something could be done to ensure that the trees of a certain age and type are never cut down, The Hindu reported.
Earlier, an expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court had ascertained the value of the heritage trees to be cut for the rail bridges and road-widening project at Rs 220 crore, according to PTI.
The Environment Impact Assessment or EIA 2020 is a draft law which prescribes the procedure for industries to assess the environmental impact of their proposed projects before they are given a go-ahead by the government. However, environmentalists have strongly criticised the draft EIA for doing away with mandatory public consultations for several types of projects, and creating conditions for faster approvals of projects instead of focusing on what impact they will have.