SC asks Centre to form committee to oversee environ clearance to projects

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to form an expert panel to oversee green clearances given to projects while hearing a plea challenging the construction of bridge projects in West Bengal.A bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde was hearing the petition filed by Association For Protection Of Democratic Rights, an NGO, against felling of over 350 trees for construction of railway over bridges and widening of National Highway-112 from Barasat to Petrapole on the Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal.
The bench comprising Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian, directed the Centre, the West Bengal government and the NGO to exchange names which were suggested to be members of the expert panel on fixing criteria on felling of trees for projects on the basis of their overall value.
“Somebody has to access the heritage (trees) and once you decide to build a road, you (Governments) must tell us and the committee may say, which trees are never to be cut down and which trees may be cut down, and how they are to be valued if they are to be cut down,” the CJI stated.
The bench also suggested Ranjeet Singh, who drafted the wildlife protection Act may be included in the committee.
The top court asserted that the Centre has to file a reply on the appointment of the environmental regulator and asked it to respond by March 18.
In 2011, the court had asked the Centre to appoint a national regulator for appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and to impose penalties on polluters.