While hearing a plea by Uttar Pradesh government yesterday regarding felling of trees for the widening of Krishna Govardhan Road Project in Mathura, the Supreme Court questioned why trees needed to be cut for widening the roads. The Court said that if roads were built in zig-zag way, it would reduce the speed of vehicles and thereby it will reduce the number of accidents.
A Bench headed by CJI SA Bobde said, “Why do roads have to be laid in a straight line by cutting trees? Keep roads zigzag. It will reduce speed, lessen accidents on roads and save many lives”. The Court asked the state government to evaluate the value of trees based on the amount of oxygen that they would release in nature in their lifetime.
Supreme Court directs the Uttar Pradesh government to evaluate value of trees taking into account the cost of oxygen, that the trees would have given to nature in their lifetime, while hearing plea of government to fell trees for Krishna Goverdhan road project in Mathura. pic.twitter.com/YTDa1dXePi— ANI (@ANI) December 2, 2020
The Public Works Department of Uttar Pradesh government assured the court that they the government would compensate by planting the same number of tress in another area so that no loss was caused to the environment in general. To this the court responded that there could be no compensatory reforestation if a 100-year old tree was cut down. Pointing out that no information was available regarding the age of trees, the court said, “It is not possible for us to accept a compensation in merely arithmetical terms especially when there is no statement forthcoming from Uttar Pradesh or PWD as to nature of trees whether they are classified as shrubs or large trees”.
“Clearly they cannot do so in terms of timber but must adopt a method of evaluation which takes into account oxygen-producing capacity of the particular tree over the remaining life span, assuming it may be cut now”, the court said. Amicus Curiae advocate ADN Rao told the court that Net Present Value (NPV) method could be used for evaluation of trees. The court asked the government to consider the NPV method and respond within two weeks. “The UP government is to ascertain the total number of trees to be felled for building roads. It is clear that only effect, if trees are retained, would be roads may not be straight and therefore inapplicable of high speed traffic. Such an effect may bot be necessarily deleterious”, the court said.
UP PWD had filed an application in 2017 for cutting down 2,940 trees for the project and Central Empowered Committee had given clearance. SC asks UP to evaluate value of trees taking into account the cost of oxygen, that the trees would have given to nature in their life time.— Dhananjay Mahapatra (@toi_dhananjayM) December 2, 2020
The plea was filed by the Public Works Department of Uttar Pradesh in 2017 for felling 2,940 trees for the Krishna Govardhan Road Project. The Central Empowered Committee had clearance for the project.
The court fixed the next date of hearing after four weeks.