The Bombay high court on Tuesday suggested that electric vehicles should be used for supplying LPG cylinders to ecologically sensitive Matheran. The court’s observation came while hearing a plea on the transportation of essential commodities to the hill station.
A single-judge bench of Justice Anil K Menon was hearing through videoconference a plea filed by former MLA Suresh Narayan Lad seeking relaxation on vehicular restrictions in Matheran to provide essential goods to the residents during the lockdown.
Earlier, on May 16, in a relief to nearly 30,000 residents of Matheran and neighbouring villages, HC considered decision of interim monitoring committee set up by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) and allowed vehicles transporting essential goods to reach the core-sensitive area of the hill station thrice a week by following pollution control norms until the commencement of goods transport by the railways.
The committee had also requested railway authorities to operationalise Dasturi Naka-Matheran train by attaching additional goods bogies to supply essentials
On Tuesday, June 2, the court was informed that as per its order, the railways had started services to supply essential commodities to the hill station. Advocate Gaurav Parkar representing petitioner said that the civic body did not hire Bharat-VI engine tempo as directed by the court and therefore inconvenience to the residents continued unabated. He further added that problems of residents did not end as the railway authorities had refused to carry LPG cylinders and other essential goods citing safety norms.
Parkar said that it has been a practice to have LPG cylinders being transported on horseback, but it was not an ideal solution in view of bad health of the old horses and prevention of Cruelty to Animals law and therefore such arrangement cannot be continued.
Advocate Manish Pabale for the state government said that tempo service could not commence as the trains had resumed and were carrying goods and persons to the hill station
Advocate T J Pandian for Central Railway and advocate D P Singh for central government submitted that LPG cannot be carried on railway wagons as there is an explicit bar against carriage of gas and inflammable materials. However, the Monitoring Committee can decide on it, central government lawyers submitted.
After hearing submissions, the court directed the Monitoring Committee to find a solution to the problem. However, advocate Pabale for state informed the court that chairperson of the panel had retired and other members were engaged with carrying out Cyclone Nisarga related work and it would not be possible for the monitoring panel to meet for next 15 days.
The court accepted the state’s submission and granted liberty to the petitioner to approach the monitoring committee as well the HC as per further sittings during the lockdown. Before adjourning the case, Justice Menon suggested, “In the meanwhile, it will not be out of place to mention that the viability of using the electrically powered vehicles for movement of LPG should not be overlooked. The Monitoring Committee shall therefore consider the feasibility of such means including by considering a cost analysis study in the interests of the residents which the state is bound to protect.”
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