New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked Uttar Pradesh government to seek permission from the Centre for its dream smart city project near Lucknow after it was told that around 15 hectares, out of total project area of 992 acres, is forest land.
The bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi did not allow the plea of UP administration that the permission of Central Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) was not needed as it considers forest as "pristine" and undertakes that no tree would be cut in the forest area.
"We are not cutting even a single tree in the forest area and we are also not using this forest land for the project," senior advocate Ashok Desai, appearing for UP, said.
"From bullocks to cybercity to environment protection, we have travelled a lot ...What is certain is that some part of the project area is forest land and you (UP) still require permission of Central government," the bench said.
The counsel, appearing for MoEF, contended that it was for the state government to approach the Centre for mandatory permission.
At the outset, advocate ADN Rao, who has been appointed amicus curiae, informed the court that around 15 hectares of the Chak Ganjaria farm land, spread over 992 acres, falls under the definition of forest land.
Admittedly, no construction activities, to develop smart city near Lucknow, can be carried on forest land without getting a clearance from MoEF, he said.
The court then adjourned the hearing by two weeks.
Earlier, the court had asked the Centre and UP to give requisite information to the amicus curiae on allegation of cutting down trees in a sprawling farm land near Lucknow to develop a smart city.
The bench was hearing a plea filed by NGO 'We the People' through its general secretary and advocate Prince Lenin.
The petition has sought directions to UP and its Agriculture Production Commissioner that trees on the land near Lucknow should not be cut.
The petition said UP was planning to "destroy/remove the existing greenery spread over farm land belonging to the forest department in the name of development of hi-tech city and colonies and shifting animals to Neblet Farm in Barabanki."
It also alleged that mandatory environment clearances have not been obtained from the Centre and warned that depletion of forest area was likely result in environmental changes and affect biodiversity of the area.
The plea also sought quashing of all transfer proceedings pertaining to land belonging to the farm and a bar on destroying any greenery present on the land.
It also asked the court to direct the state government not to remove the animals residing within the forests spread over the farm land.
The petition had claimed that the farm land consists of 565 cows of Sahiwal breed, hundreds of peacocks, deer, jackal, owls, sparrows, parrots, pythons, cobras and several other birds and animals.
It is a forest area and housed several different species of trees, more than 1000 fully grown trees in number, which included neem, sheesham, peepal, babul, bargad, jamun, mango, singhdi and eucalyptus, according to it.
The state government, however, claimed that the land of the farm was neither a notified forest nor a reserved forest or wild life sanctuary and it has planned to optimally use the land available in the farm with a view to achieving critical developmental goals.
It also said that all the necessary clearances and measures would be taken in this regard.