The National Green Tribunal has reserved its judgement on a plea challenging the transfer of 159 hectares of forest land for establishment of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Jammu district. A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar reserved the judgement after hearing all the parties in the case.
“Arguments heard. Judgment reserved,” the bench said. The tribunal had earlier directed the Environment Ministry and Jammu and Kashmir government to file an affidavit stating whether the project in question was covered under Environmental Impact Assessment Notification of 2006.
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“Further, the affidavit would also explicitly state as to what restorative and remedial measures are being taken by the project proponent to ensure that there is no environmental degradation resulting from completion of the project, if permitted,” it had said. The NGT was hearing a plea filed by Jammu native, Nigam Priye Saroop, who had challenged the transfer of 159 hectares of forest land to the Higher Education Department of the state government on the ground that it would damage the environment and ecology of the area.
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Saroop, a law student, had contended that the transfer of the forest land was not “justified” when other vast stretches of waste and unproductive land was available in abundance in Jammu and other districts like Rajouri, Udhampur and Samba for establishment of IIT. He claimed that the transfer of forest land will adversely affect the eco-sensitive zone of Ramnagar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is a natural wildlife habitat.
“The authorities have started mercilessly felling and axing thick forest without count which is not less than a disaster for the entire flora and fauna. It is likely to cause environmental and ecological damage beyond repair if the respondents are not prevented and injuncted to stop work in the forest land immediately… The Jammu Higher Education Department through its agents and contractors has started mercilessly felling the Green Gold forest trees and started destroying the habitat of wildlife even without any formal orders by any competent authority,” the plea alleged.