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Noida Park: SC begins final hearing

Supreme Court on Friday began final hearing to examine the alleged violation of forest and environment laws by Uttar Pradesh government in the construction of statues and memorials for Dalit leaders at a park in Noida near here.



New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday began
final hearing to examine the alleged violation of forest and
environment laws by Uttar Pradesh government in the
construction of statues and memorials for Dalit leaders at a
park in Noida near here.

The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had sought
some time to file a report but a special forest bench headed
by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said it will not adjourn the
matter and, if required, any report could be filed at a later
stage of hearing.
"We are not inclined to adjourn the matter," the Bench,
also comprising Justices Aftab Alam and K S Radhakrishnan,
said allowing the petitioners, who have challenged the Rs
650-crore project, to advance their arguments.

Senior advocate Jayant Bhushan, appearing for some
Noida residents, alleged the UP government utilised the forest
land for non-forest use by constructing memorials of Dalit
leaders on 33 hectares of land for which it had uprooted 6194
trees.

He submitted that the state government has not taken
permission under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, for
going ahead with the project which was near the eco-fragile
zone of Okhla bird sanctuary which is less than 500 metre
away from the Park.
The authorites in Noida has also not adhered to the
September 14, 2006, notification of the MoEF relating to the
Environment Impact Assessment.

"State government cannot take the law into its hand," the
counsel said adding the Noida authorities should not be
allowed to claim fait accompli in the matter on the grounds
that a large portion of the work on the project site has been
completed.

However, the Bench interrupted the counsel and wanted to
know from him how he claimed that the land in question was a
forest land.

"How can we identify that the land in question is forest
land? Has it been recorded in the revenue record that it is a
forest land?" the Bench told Bhushan who said the land was a
man-made forest.

To butress his arguments, he said the data obtained
through satellite imaging of the area by the forest survey of
India makes it clear that till 2006, 21.77 hectares of land
was having trees to make it fall under the category of `open
forest`.

The Bench was told that if 20 to 40 per cent of an area
is covered by the trees it is termed as open forest and
between 40 to 70 per cent and 70 per cent and above, it is
categorised as moderate and dense forest respectively.

Earlier, before the start of the arguments, senior
advocates K K Venugopal and S C Mishra, a close aide of Chief
Minister Mayawati, submitted that the matter could be brought
to an end as the two affidavits submitted by the Centre
clinches the issue in the favour of the state government.

Uttar Pradesh government had submitted that all hurdles
for lifting the stay have been removed as the Centre, in its
affidavit, had made it clear that there was no need for
environmental clearance for the project.

The state government had argued the apex court-appointed
Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in its report also had said
that the project in no way affects the bird sanctuary in
nearby Okhla which falls under the national capital.

The UP government had claimed that the stay on the
construction work was causing a loss of Rs three lakh
everyday to it.

The Centre had earlier opposed the project on
environmental grounds.

It had in a fresh affidavit on July 21 sought some
time to examine environmental impact reports prepared by Uttar
Pradesh government about the construction site.

The MoEF has said there was a need to examine the three
reports prepared by Uttar Pradesh government as they were not
concurring with each other.

The expert bodies appointed by the state government
conducted three studies after the apex court had stayed the
construction work at the park.

"The expert apprisal committee of the MoEF has perused
the three reports. The Ministry now feels that the reports are
not concurring with each other," the MoEF said.

The affidavit has pointed out that there was a need for
another report.

The court will continue the hearing on next Friday.

PTI

From Zee News

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