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Prior Environmental Clearance Not Needed For Widening Work Of NH 4-A : Karnataka High Court

Mustafa Plumber
5 April 2021 1:00 PM GMT
Prior Environmental Clearance Not Needed For Widening Work Of NH 4-A : Karnataka High Court
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The Karnataka High Court has held that prior environmental clearance is not needed for the widening work of the 82 kilometer stretch of National Highway 4-A in the State of Karnataka in terms of the EIA Notification dated August 22, 2013.As per the said notification, prior EC is required for projects having a stretch of more than 100 kilometers. The Court made this declaration based on...

The Karnataka High Court has held that prior environmental clearance is not needed for the widening work of the 82 kilometer stretch of National Highway 4-A in the State of Karnataka in terms of the EIA Notification dated August 22, 2013.

As per the said notification, prior EC is required for projects having a stretch of more than 100 kilometers. The Court made this declaration based on the materials on record which showed that no work was going on in the NH-4A stretch in Goa.

NH 4A passes from the State of Karnataka to the State of Goa. As per the affidavit filed by NHAI, widening work has not been undertaken in the stretch of NH 4A in the State of Goa from 84.121 km to 153.075 km. The project is only at DPR stage and no financial allocation has been made for the said work. It was specifically stated that no widening projects are in progress currently in the state of Goa.

The bench while disposing off the petition filed by actor and environmentalist Suresh Heblikar and others, on March 3, said "It is not necessary for the third respondent (NHAI) to obtain prior environmental clearance as contemplated by EIA notification dated 14th September 2006 (as amended by the notification dated 22nd August 2013)."

It added "We make it clear that this finding has been recorded in view of the fact that no material is placed on record to show that the similar work is being undertaken on the stretch of NH 4A in the State of Goa."

The Court also held that the in-principle approval granted for the widening project under the Forest (Conservation) Act has expired and the work can resume only if such approval is extended.

A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty said "We hold that as in-principle approval (Stage-1 approval) granted under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 to the third respondent is no longer valid, unless and until the period of the said in-principle approval is extended, the third respondent is not entitled to carry on any further work under the said project subject matter of this petition. Needless to add that subject to further directions which we are issuing, after the period of in-principle approval is extended, it will be open for the third respondent to proceed with further work."

The bench further directed the first respondent (Union of India) to consider whether any part of the project undertaken by the third respondent, falls within the Ecologically Sensitive Area and whether it will attract the prohibition provided as per directions issued on November 13, 2013, under Section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

It added the "The said issue shall be decided by the first respondent within a period of six weeks from the date on which a copy of this Judgment and Order is made available on the website of this Court. Needless to add that the issue will be considered by the concerned authority of the first respondent after giving an opportunity of being heard to the third respondent."

The court also suggested Union of India to undertake measures in accordance with subsection (4) of Section 36 of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002. It allowed the petitioners to make a representation to the appropriate authority calling upon the said authority to exercise the powers under sub-section (4) of Section 36 by specifically pointing out the measures which are required to be undertaken.

The petition had said "The Western Ghats stretch in Karnataka is home to one of the last remaining tropical wet evergreen forests. Western Ghats is a biodiversity hotspot and has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The flora in Very dense forest of Eco Class I belong to the rare, endangered and threatened species that are difficult to be raised and planted. Also, CAMPA does not consider any diversity conservation of tree species that are lost due to feeling. It is done with timber species as a goal and is eventually executed as a monoculture of timber species elsewhere. Thus, the ecological services lost due to such large-scale felling of diverse very dense forest is never compensated for by the user agency nor by the Forest department".

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