BENGALURU: The recent Supreme Court order suspending the Environmental Clearance (EC) given by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for Goa International Airport, will be binding not only on the city’s elevated corridor project, but also all other infrastructure projects in the pipeline. The landmark judgment, which upheld that environment laws are supreme, found an echo among city environmentalists, who say the order will hit states like Karnataka, which have not complied with environmental laws in the much-opposed 102 km elevated road project.
The apex court observed that the expert appraisal committee (EAC) abdicated its role by taking into account circumstances that were extraneous to the exercise of its power, and failed to notice facets of the environment that were crucial to decision-making. The judgment said that according to the 2006 notification, the MoEFCC will accept the recommendation of the EAC, making its role even more significant.
City environmentalists add, “The apex court asked EAC to revisit the decision in view of the high ecological impact. Project proponents in the Goa case failed to disclose that 54,676 trees had to be felled, while the EIA report, claiming that only a few trees and bushes had to be felled in a project area of 2,133 acres, turned out to be false.”
Questioning the need for the elevated project, green groups say, “The court mentioned that the need to set up a new airport may be of importance or a matter of policy, but for this, every facet of the environment has to be adequately assessed.” Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group, said, “The same ruling will be binding on the elevated corridor project, and will hit other infrastructure projects too.”
Further, city ecologists say that there is non-disclosure of vital information by project proponents. “They claim the need to fell 3,716 trees on a stretch of 102km, while it may be more than 30,000. As per BBMP officials, each kilometre in the city has a tree cover of 200-250 trees, and if this is taken as a rough estimate, the number of trees to be felled may run into thousands. They are also proposing vertical gardens (for loss of tree cover), which have been a failure in tropical countries. The corridor will run very close to 12 water bodies.”
Raising serious concerns about the elevated corridor project, environment groups said the Karnataka government is planning to spend more than Rs 1 lakh crore on elevated corridors, steel flyover, satellite town ring road, peripheral ring road, signal-free corridors and road-widening.