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SC stays NGT judgement regarding EC on Char Dham road project

The Supreme Court of India has agreed that prior environment clearance for the Char Dham (all weather road) project was required and therefore stayed the judgment wherein the National Green Tribunal had held that no environment clearance for the project is required. The SC also made it clear that the project can continue further if the required environment clearnace is secured. Dehradun-based Citizens for Green Doon (CFGD) and others had challenged the Char Dham project, which involved road widening 900 kilometres of National Highway in ecologically fragile Himalayan region before the National Green Tribunal on several grounds including that the project commenced in violation of the EIA Notification, 2006 by not taking environment clearance, and that the felling of more than 26,000 trees took place without legal forest clearance order being in public domain. The NGT had disposed of the application stating that no environment clearance was required but constituted a committee to take care of various environmental issues. The said order of the tribunal was challenged by the CFGD and other appellants before the Supreme Court. On November 26, 2018, the matter was taken up by the bench consisting of justice Rohintan Fali Nariman and justice Navin Sinha, which had issued notice and had directed that the matter will be heard again on the question of stay. According to CFGD chief coordinator Dr Nitin Pandey, the matter came up for grant of interim directions on Friday. Sanjay Parikh, counsel appearing for the appellants pointed out that 900 kilometre stretch of road widening highway project was illegally divided into segments in order to avoid prior environment clearance which is mandatorily required for a national highway road widening project where the stretch is more than 100 kilometres. He pointed out that the NGT committed a serious error in accepting the interpretation given by MoRTH that 900 kilometres is divided by bypasses and from each bypass the stretch of road widening is less than 100 kilometres. The bench consisting of justices Rohinton Fali Nariman and Vineet Saran agreed that prior environment clearance for the project was required and therefore stayed the judgment wherein the tribunal had held that no environment clearance for the project is required. The SC also made it clear that the project can proceed further only if environment clearance is taken. Considering the factual situation that mountain cutting and tree felling has taken place in certain areas, which has given rise to landslides, the SC said that as far as area where the work is going on (ongoing projects) is concerned, it should not be stayed. The MoRTH was directed to file an affidavit within eight weeks indicating the details of ongoing projects specifying the stretch of road where mountain cutting and tree felling has taken place. Saturday, 12 January 2019 | PNS | Dehradun

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