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SC asks Govt to discover choices earlier than slicing down timber for freeway initiatives

The Apex Court hinted on formulating guidelines for cutting down trees for the purpose of executing highway projects.

The petitioners, Arpita Saha and Association for Protection of Democratic Rights, challenged the decision to chop-off trees worth Rs. 2.2 billion for the Setu Bharatam project. A court-appointed committee came up with this valuation.

This is an ongoing project in West Bengal for which several trees are being cut down.

The bench was of the opinion that government must look into other alternatives before laying down the trees for building roads and highways.

While addressing this issue, the bench also hinted that it might set up an expert committee which would not only formulate guidelines for the same but would also value the chopped-off trees by coming up with afforestation scheme.

The bench also observed that trees’ value must be computed based on its contribution to the environment and not just on the basis of timber it provides. It also stated that trees of certain type and aged-trees should not be cut down.

The counsel representing West Bengal government submitted that the valuation is unreasonable and hypothetical, and that in total 306 trees would be chopped-off. Interestingly, the valuation conducted by the committee gave an estimate of 4000 trees being chopped-off.

In this project, 5 railway over-bridges would be constructed on a stretch of six kilometres.

The bench asked the advocates appearing for the petitioner to suggest names of the individuals who could comprise the committee. The bench wanted to consider the matter for future happenings as well. The bench thus posted the matter for next week.

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