The Supreme Court on Friday said there was no automatic go-ahead for the Uttar Pradesh government project of constructing statues and memorials for Dalit leaders at Noida Park merely because the Centre has stated that environment clearance was not required for it.
It said such a stand of the Centre that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was not required for the project has to be discussed in detail before arriving at any conclusion.
We cannot say fait accompli,otherwise,we may hear that some other projects are being cleared under the garb of this matter,a special Forest Bench comprising Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices Aftab Alam and K S Radhakrishnan
The Bench was perusing the affidavit filed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) which said the project of the Mayawati government is covered under Area Development Activity requiring no EIA.
The affidavit said the area involved in the project was only 33.43 hectares,much below the bench mark of 1,50,000 sq metres requiring environment clearance from the MoEF.
However,the ministry affidavit elicited strong objections from opponents of the project.
Senior advocate Harsh Salve,who is assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter,said the acceptance of such a stand of the government will cause more damage.
If this affidavit is accepted,it is not going to help,rather it is going to hurt others,he said and cautioned the Bench against allowing the issue to move for fait accompli.
It is difficult to turn the clock back,he said adding the project should not be allowed without the EIA.
His stand was supported by the counsel for Noida residents,Jayant Bhushan,who said the project cannot be cleared without EIA as it was next to the Okhla bird sanctuary.
The project is less than 10 km away from the sanctuary and requires environment clearance from MoEF,” he said.
The apex court had on August 13 wanted to know from the Centre under which category of Environment Assessment Notification the project could be put.
It is examining whether the project falls under the category of Building and Construction Project or Township and Area Development Project.
The project,which covers 20,000 sq metres,comes under the first category while those using 1,50,000 sq metres falls
under the second.
The apex court had also sought central response to the suggestion that guidelines should be laid down for giving environmental clearance to projects in the vicinity of urban forests like Noida park and Siri Fort in the national capital.
Uttar Pradesh government had said Noida authorities were ready to reduce the concrete area of the park where statues and memorials of Dalit leaders have been installed.
It has come out with the proposal to reduce the concrete area to 35 per cent of the total park land area of 34 hectares used in the construction activities.
The state government had said 65 per cent area would be planted with trees.
Earlier,the Centre had said it could not grant environmental clearance for construction of statues and memorials for Dalit leaders at a park in Noida if Uttar Pradesh government does not take measures for the area’s ecological restoration.
In an affidavit,MoEF had said that given the complex nature of the project and its adverse impact on surrounding biodiversity and its proximity to Okhla bird sancturay,it will not grant the clearance.
The Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) of the Ministry,which reviewed the three environment impact assessment reports prepared by UP government,has also suggested certain measures to be taken by the state for getting clearance to the Rs 650-crore project.
MoEF had,during the proceedings on July 21,sought time to examine the reports prepared by UP government saying they were not concurring with each other.
The expert bodies appointed by the state government had conducted three studies after the apex court stayed construction work at the park.
The UP government had claimed the stay on construction work was causing to it a loss of Rs three lakh everyday.
The state government had said MoEF’s earlier affidavit,in which it had said that the land in question did not come under the forest area,favoured the lifting of the stay on construction at the site.
The UP government had submitted that all hurdles for lifting the stay have been removed as the Centre,in its affidavit,had said that there was no need for environmental clearance for the project.
It had argued that the apex court-appointed Central
Empowered Committee (CEC) in its report also had said that the project in no way affects the bird sanctuary in Okhla.
All work for the Rs 650-crore project on the 33.43 hectare land has been stopped since October 9,2009,by an apex court order.