19 May 2023 3:50 AM GMT
While restraining the State from going forward with the heli-tourism proposed to be conducted in the Nilgiris area as part of the Summer Festival, the Madras High Court emphasized that the fragile eco-system and vulnerability of the bio-diverse region cannot not become a victim of crass commercialism. "The fragile eco-system and vulnerability of this bio-diverse region cannot be the...
While restraining the State from going forward with the heli-tourism proposed to be conducted in the Nilgiris area as part of the Summer Festival, the Madras High Court emphasized that the fragile eco-system and vulnerability of the bio-diverse region cannot not become a victim of crass commercialism.
"The fragile eco-system and vulnerability of this bio-diverse region cannot be the victim of crass commercialism, that too in such an unplanned and careless fashion."
The division bench of Justice Anita Sumanth and Justice Nirmal Kumar noted that the proposal to conduct Heli-tourism was made by the Tourism Department without proper study and without discussions with the Forest Department or the wildlife wardens and was merely to generate revenue for the State.
"While we are not possessed of the technical expertise to pass judgment upon the finer and detailed aspects of the biodiversity in the Nilgiris or of the deleterious effects of helicopters in that region, and neither is that the requirement in this case, we are of the categoric view that the respondents have been remiss in rushing to endorse and advertise the heli tourism project even prior to assessing all relevant material, and holding consultations with the Sanctuary wardens and officials of the Forest Department," the court said.
The court was dealing with a plea filed by Dr. T Murugavel, who had raised concerns against the heli-tourism program intended to be organized by the Tourism department. Murugavel had submitted that helicopter operations in the area would adversely affect the biodiversity in the area. He also argued that it had no contributory value to public life and was merely a tourist attraction.
The court noted that the feasibility of the helicopter operation in an ecologically sensitive region should have been cautiously approached and carefully addressed. It added that tourism policies must strike a balance with public concerns, specifically environment and wildlife.
After going through the materials, the court opined that necessary discussions with the forest authorities had not been carried out before planning the “Heli-tourism”.
"As a consequence, there is not a single document produced before us to indicate seeking of, or grant of clearance of the heli tourism project, by the Forest officials after consultation with Wildlife wardens of the National Parks/Sanctuaries. This is not just curious but indicates abject non-application to the relevant considerations on hand."
The court was also baffled as to how the authorities posted in the area, who should be aware of the special features of the area, blatantly disregarded the same and gave a go-ahead for the project. The court added that proper consultation with the domain experts examining all the relevant and possible angles must be a pre-condition for such proposals and not a post-facto event.
In view of the sensitivity of the region, the court restrained the authorities from conducting the heli tourism and ordered accordingly.
Case Title: Dr T Murugavel v The Additional Chief Secretary and others
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 143
Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr.R.Srinivas, Senior Counsel For Genicon and Associates
Counsel for the Respondents: Mr.J.Ravindran, Additional Advocate General assisted by Mrs.S.Mythraye Chandru Special Government Pleader