Yamuna Expressway: SC to wait for amicus report on felling of trees
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Last Updated: Friday, August 27, 2010, 18:14
  
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said it will wait for an amicus curiae report to decide on the issue of allowing felling of over 5,000 trees in the vicinity of Taj Mahal for Uttar Pradesh government's Yamuna Expressway road project connecting Delhi with Agra.

The apex court said it was not in a position at this stage to pass any directions as it was not aware that any order prohibiting felling of trees was earlier passed by it or not in the eco-sensitive zone near the Taj Mahal, also called Taj Trapazium Zone (TTZ).

A Bench, comprising Justices D K Jain and H L Dattu, asked advocate Krishan Mahajan, who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, to go through various orders passed by the court to find out if any order prohibiting cutting of trees in the TTZ area exists or not.

The apex court has been monitoring since 1990s clearance to projects in TTZ area.

Mahajan said he can make survey of the area only after he was provided with the map of the area where trees are to be felled.

The Bench asked the developer of the project and the authorities that the trees which are required to be cut should be numbered and marked by them so that the amicus can make survey of the area along with the members of the apex-court appointed Central Empowered Committee.

The court said the requisite exercise and the report in this regard has to be completed within four weeks.

Uttar Pradesh government's Yamuna Expressway Authority and the contractor of the project Jaypee Infratech Ltd have approached the apex court seeking its nod for going ahead with the project.

Senior advoacte Ashok Desai, appearing for the developer, said there was no order requiring the court's prior permission for cutting the trees but the Conservator of Forest asked the company to get clearance from the CEC, which prompted it to approach the apex court.

The Bench said even if there was no order with regard to cutting of trees, it still has the jurisdiction to go into the issue as it was concerned with the eco-fragile zone.

"We know the sanctity of the area," the Bench said.

Advocate M C Mehta, on whose petition since the court has been monitoring environment aspect around the Taj area, said whenever such a situation has arisen, there had been a direction for cutting minimum number of trees.

The authority and the contractor have moved an application seeking permission for felling of over 5,000 trees for widening of road from Agra airport to the Taj Mahal.

Mahajan, during the earlier hearing, had said that before allowing the cutting of trees, the court has to take into account that there are five Mughal era monuments in the area.

There have been allegations from various quarters that trees in and around the Taj Mahal had been felled by the state government for constructing an expressway from Agra Airport to the Taj.

The state government had earlier denied the charge and sought permission for felling the trees on the plea that the necessary environmental impact assessment had been done and an expert committee of the state had stated that there would be no threat to the monument or its environment.

The apex court is monitoring the alleged threat posed to the Taj Mahal on account of encroachments and various construction activities around the 17th century monument.

Mahajan had in 2008 submitted a report which alleged that over 2,332 trees had been illegally felled around the Taj Mahal by the authorities, thus rendering the white marbled monument vulnerable to environmental hazards.

The six-lane Yamuna Expressway, earlier called Taj Expressway, which can be extended to eight lanes, passes along River Yamuna measuring 165.5km and covers nearly 334 villages of Gautam Budh Nagar, Bulandshahar, Aligarh, Mahamaya Nagar (Hathras), Mathura and Agra districts of UP.

PTI


First Published: Friday, August 27, 2010, 18:14


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