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Supreme Court steps in to curb felling of trees

The bench cautioned that if urgent steps were not taken, it would lead to permanent damage to the environment in another 50 years

By Our Legal Correspondent in New Delhi
  • Published 19.02.20, 2:29 AM
  • Updated 19.02.20, 2:29 AM
  • a min read
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The top court said it may take the assistance of economists, environmental scientists and others for laying down the guidelines. Bhushan told the court that in another 50 years, the global climate may change for the worse, to which the Chief Justice agreed. (Shutterstock)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday indicated that it would lay down guidelines with the help of experts to minimise the need for felling trees to carry out public projects, seeking to strike a balance between environment and development.

A bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices Bhushan Gavai and Surya Kant cautioned that if urgent steps were not taken, it would lead to permanent damage to the environment in another 50 years.

“We would like to see if we can lay down some principle or guidelines. We would like to hear all and invite suggestions. You can see that the deterioration is so rapid that before anybody knows what is happening, there will be many things which would be permanently gone…,” Justice Bobde told advocate Prashant Bhushan during a hearing.

The court said it may take the assistance of economists, environmental scientists and others for laying down the guidelines.

Bhushan was representing an NGO, the Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, which had earlier challenged the Bengal government’s decision to cut down hundreds of trees in the state for constructing a foot overbridge. The NGO has complained that such alleged indiscriminate felling of trees would cause serious environmental degradation.

At the previous hearing, the Bengal government had defended the move, saying the tree-felling was required as there were 800-odd deaths at the unmanned level crossing.

On Tuesday, the Chief Justice said during the hearing: “Green cover must be preserved and alternatives should be explored to develop infrastructure without cutting trees. Otherwise, it will lead to rapid deterioration of natural resources.”

Bhushan told the court that in another 50 years, the global climate may change for the worse, to which the Chief Justice agreed.

Justice Bobde pointed out that this was the third complaint on tree-felling. Both the earlier cases had come from Mumbai. While one related to construction of a Metro shed, the other involved the construction of a coastal road.

“People are not willing to explore alternatives. There could be a way to create a path without felling trees. It might be a little more expensive, but it would be better if trees are not cut,” Justice Bobde observed.

The matter has been adjourned for four weeks.