Green concerns and development need to be balanced, says Calcutta HC
Times of India | 18 November 2023
KOLKATA: Environment concerns and development need to be balanced, the Calcutta High Court said on Friday while hearing a petition on the requirement to cut or transplant more than 700 trees in the Maidan for the construction of the Joka-Esplanade Metro.
"Metro Rail is undoubtedly required. But development has to be balanced and sustainable. The Maidan is a huge lung space and should be protected," Chief Justice T S Sivagnanam observed while passing an order restraining Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL) from felling or transplanting any trees before getting the requisite clearances from appropriate authorities.
The court order on Friday clarified that construction of the Metro had not been stopped and that only curbs had been placed on felling or transplanting of trees till the next hearing.
The RVNL in its affidavit contested the petitioner's claim that queries made through RTI to it had not been replied and pointed out that they had been addressed incorrectly. The affidavit also stated that the question of felling or transplanting trees does not arise at this point as they were still in process of seeking permission from the Army that is the custodian of the Maidan and the state forest department that has to grant permission for felling of any tree in Kolkata.
The RVNL counsel further said only areas where the Metro stations are proposed in the Maidan had been cordoned and that trees that had been identified for possible re-plantation at a later stage had been marked.
While acknowledging that the petitioner may have erred in sending the RTI to another address, the CJ repeatedly asked the RVNL to not view the PIL as adversarial but one that was aimed to protect the greenery in the Maidan.
"We are very conscious of the fact that the project is conceived, developed and to be implemented in public interest. Therefore RVNL should not be considering this litigation as an adversarial party, saying that I will fight with the petitioners. The petitioner has flagged an issue, he has got some information to say 700 trees, it can be 625, or it can be only 60 trees. The approach should be different from the usual one and look at how to implement the project while striking a balance. Less than 30% of the trees that are transplanted survive," the CJ pointed out.
The matter will come up for hearing on December 19. The bench directed the state, state heritage commission, MoEF and the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Bengal Area, of the Army to file affidavits stating their stand on the PIL by December 7. The court also granted RVNL and PUBLIC to file supplementary affidavits with replies to them being sent by December 15.