Sakina Tashrifwala

Published on: 01 December 2022 at 19:35 IST

The Supreme Court made an oral comment about the practical challenges of having a consistent requirement of 1 kilometre Eco Sensitive Zone (ESZ) for all protected forests across the country, stating that the ground realities must also be taken into account.

A group of applications filed in the TN Godavarman Thirumalpad case were being heard by a bench of Justices BR Gavai and Vikram Nath.

Some of the applications sought an exemption from the Supreme Court’s June 3 direction, which mandated a 1 KM ESZ for all protected forests.

The bench noted that there are instances where designated forests are located within metropolitan areas, where urban activity may have occurred for a number of years.

According to the judge, there is a designated forest area along the highway between Jaipur City and the airport. “Orders cannot be given in the air. Some practical considerations must also be made when issuing orders” said Justice Gavai.

Justice Gavai further made a statement, “If the ESZ requirement is met in these locations, the entire road will need to be destroyed or turned into a forest. After that, the city won’t be connected “.

The bench emphasized that being an environmentalist, it’s not easy to prevent the entire development.

In response to a request made by CREDAI-MCHI, the bench issued a ruling exempting the Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, which is located close to the suburbs of Mumbai, from the June 3 decision. The decision was made in consideration of an earlier decision exempting Mumbai’s Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary and Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Speaking on behalf of the CREDAI, Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi informed the court that the June 3 ruling was reached after certain cases from 20 years ago were decided, and that the bench disregarded multiple later notifications from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

In light of the notifications issued by the Ministry, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta argued that some forests could be excused from the mandate. He also stated that he will speak with amicus curiae K Parameshwar about this. The SG said, “I’ll sit down with Mr. Parameshwar. We could have a solution.”

The Indian Railways had submitted an application to change the orders, the Solicitor General also said. “The railway projects are linear projects for which we must obtain state approval, and the projects may cross multiple states.”

Justice Gavai said that, as a High Court judge, he had recommended the building of overpasses and underpasses for traffic in order to prevent the movement of wildlife from being impeded. The bench suggested that this might be possible in the current circumstance.

The project would traverse through six or seven states, according to the Solicitor General, necessitating clearance from each state’s forest department. “We are working on it, but nonetheless repeated permissions would have to be acquired because the projects encompass multiple areas,” he said.

The Bench suggested that “one authorization might be acquired from the Ministry of Environment and Forest” rather than “going to each State Forest Department.” The Solicitor General advised the court that he must wait for instructions before proceeding.

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