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Uttarakhand High Court Stays Proposal To Cut 2,057 Trees To Widen Sahastradhara Road

Jyoti Prakash Dutta
14 May 2022 10:30 AM GMT
Uttarakhand High Court Grants Stay On Proposed Move To Cut 2057 Trees To Widen Sahastradhara Road
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A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra and Justice R.C. Khulbe of Uttarakhand High Court has granted a stay on the proposed move to eliminate 2,057 trees for road-widening project in the Sahastradhara passage.

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by one Mr. Ashish Kumar Garg, an engineer by profession. The PIL is particularly concerned about dense green stretch of both the Dehradun valley and Dehradun city from Jogiwala/ Ladpur/ Sahastradhara Crossing/ Krishali Square/ Pacific golf estate. About 2,057 numbers of trees were proposed to be cut down for road widening in the aforesaid region, so as to facilitate traffic movement to Mussoorie and Sahastradhara picnic spot.

The petitioner pointed out that the most out of these 2,057 trees are fully grown varieties of Peepal, Pilkhan, Amaltas, Mango, Eucalyptus and other exquisite varieties of trees, whose critical role in the ecology is to keep the entire area cooler in summer, retaining water by the roots to prevent lowering of the water level, regulating the air quality index to acceptable levels to release fresh oxygen. The petition further submitted,

"The once pristine Dehradun city, which was known as the 'city of grey hair and green hedges', is now witnessing reduced rainfall, hotter summers and many heat islands have developed in and around the city area, in the same manner as is being witnessed in many barren/ desert-kind of areas across north India in addition to glaciers melting. One practical example of this can be seen from the reality that Dehradun itself seeing its high demand for air conditioners wherein earlier times, fans were enough to do the job. Greenery in all forms would mitigate the effects of climate change naturally, since fully grown trees are natural sources of absorbing carbon. This should be the main reason to encourage all stake-holders to protect Dehradun greenery fiercely with all possible solutions to ease traffic and other civic enmities through engineering measures."

It was again averred that the Sahastradhara road, which was once totally lush green, has already seen a great reduction in its green cover due to the rise in various housing projects. In such eventuality, to further reduce green cover by felling down 2057 trees would lead to a situation where tourist heading to Sahastradhara (which is also a famous picnic spot) would feel no difference between their respective urban areas and the valley. Further, these trees are abode to many species of birds and bees, which are also likely to be eliminated through the proposed move.

The petitioner also stressed that trees are often viewed as 'obstructions' which are mostly targeted to complete project like this. At the same time, the municipality refuses to take action against illegal encroachments, stalls, electric poles, transformers, haphazard parking of tankers and vehicles. Further, he proposed that electric and internet lines could be made underground which will immensely help in protecting the ecology.

The petitioner had written to the Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department in July/August 2018 to adopt the concept of smart roads while widening roads, so as to protect the greenery from destruction under the garb of construction. Merit was found in such suggestion and the then Superintendent Engineer had written to the Chief Engineer to act on the suggestion while preparing the detail project report.

While on one hand, the creative suggestions were being considered by the Public Works Department, on the other hand, a sudden push was given to widen the stretch of the road at the cost of 2057 trees. The petitioner also cited the dictum laid down by the Supreme Court, which mooted the concept of valuing of the ecological cost of every tree and quantifying the same by amount of oxygen and ecological services that it renders to the biodiversity and the mankind.

The petitioner also suggested alternative routes from Ladpur junction to Krishali Chowk via Tapoban Danda Gujrara Mansingh Wala instead of the existing route from Sahastradhara crossing to Krishali Chowk, which passes through main residential areas. The petition submitted,

"At a time when climate change has taken the terminology of 'climate emergency' and the whole world is pushing towards sustainable development, Dehradun valley would not be setting an appropriate example if it were to simply sanction the felling of such trees."

Mr. Abhijay Negi, advocate appearing for the petitioner pleaded the Court to issue direction to quash the proposed widening of the road and to issue a writ of mandamus, directing the respondents to frame guidelines for any road widening exercise that may lead to felling of trees. He prayed for a stay in cutting down the trees in the interim period.

The Court issued notice and directed the respondents to file counter affidavit within four weeks. Further, it injuncted the respondents from cutting down trees in the said region in the interim period.

Case Title: Ashish Kumar Garg v. State of Uttarakhand through Secretary, Public Works Department & Anr.

Case No.: WPPIL No. 68 of 2022

Order Dated: 11th May 2022

Coram: ACJ S.K. Mishra & Justice R.C. Khulbe

Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr. Abhijay Negi, Advocate

Counsel for the Respondents: Mr. Pradeep Joshi, Addl. CSC

Click Here To Read/Download Order

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