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NGO moves SC, green tribunal afresh on NH7 widening in Nagpur

Times of India, New Delhi, 20th October, 2015

Vijay Pinjarkar


NAGPUR: Even though the entire 37-km forest stretch along NH7 between Mansar and Khawasa has been cleared of trees for four-laning, a Mumbai-based environment protection NGO has filed a fresh petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Delhi, challenging the permission granted to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) under Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) 1980.


Apart from fresh petition in NGT, the NGO Conservation Action Trust (CAT) has also filed a special leave petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court and another application to transfer NH7 matter from the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court. On Monday, both, regular and fresh petition challenging the felling permission granted to NHAI under Section 2 on NH7 came up for hearing at the principal bench of NGT.


CAT's contention is that Maharashtra forest department violated the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, by initiating felling of trees without issuing the necessary final order under Section 2 of the FCA. The next hearing is slated for December 2, when the apex court opens after vacation. On September 11, the Nagpur High Court had already stayed the NH7 proceedings on September 11.


CAT has also argued that the then deputy conservator of forests (DyCF), Nagpur, while filling up the requisite forms recommending permissions to NHAI, lied that no endangered or rare wildlife species are found in the vulnerable patch. Besides, the SLP also argues that SC's centrally empowered committee (CEC) recommendations on NH7 were ignored.


Even as the four-laning project itself seems virtualy cleared by the courts, it will now be a battle for wildlife mitigation measures. The CEC has itself in 2010 suggested alternative route via Chhindwara to save the tiger corridor. NGOs are now questioning the basis of curtailed mitigation measures as suggested by Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun. NHAI has agreed to construct curtailed mitigation measures, which includes two 750 metre underpasses and one 300 metre underpass for wild animals, besides nine 50 metre structures.