KOCHI: The southern bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, (MoEF&CC) on the allegation that environmental clearance was not obtained to initiate development of NH-66 stretch between Ramanattukara and Edappally.
The bench comprising Justice K Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta, in the order issued on November 11 on a petition filed by Malappuram native Mohammed Jishar, Ernakulam native K S Zachariya and Thrissur native Beena, has formed a two-member committee to look into the allegations.
The committee, comprising a senior officer of MoEF&CC Regional Office, Bengaluru, and a senior officer of NHAI Regional Office, Thiruvananthapuram, will inspect the 167-km-long stretch and examine the project. If any violation is found, the committee will have to submit ‘a factual as well as action report’ to the tribunal on or before January 7, 2021, as per the order.
The joint committee has also been directed to ascertain as to whether prior environmental clearance is required to carry out NH-66 development between Ramanattukara and Edappally.“The committee needs to check whether such projects are allowed to continue in piecemeal with the ultimate aim of completing the entire stretch without conducting any prior environmental impact assessment or obtaining prior environment clearance,” said the order.
In the petition the applicants alleged that NHAI is now trying to widen the road without getting prior environmental clearance by widening portions in piecemeal. Considering the seriousness of the allegation, the bench directed the committee to suggest precautions to avoid possible environmental damages during the construction.
“Even if the project has to continue, the committee needs to suggest what all precautions are to be taken to avoid possible environmental impact of such a project. If any violation is found, the committee needs to assess the environmental damage caused on account of such violation and assess the environmental compensation to be recovered from the National Highways Authority of India,” states the order.
“NGT has made a serious observation on our petition. According to Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) amendment 2013, prior Environmental Clearance from MoEF&CC and Environmental and Social Impact Assessment are needed to widen national highways beyond the length of 100 km,” said a source close to the petitioner. NHAI officials were unavailable for a response.
Govt, NHAI to go ahead with work
As per the agreement signed on October 13, the state government and NHAI have decided to go ahead with the development of the stretch. Two stretches were added in the category of ‘Projects to be awarded during 2020-21.’ Preparation of DPR for the development of the stretch is in the final stage and NHAI is planning to award the work by the end of the current financial year. A total of `7,333 crore has been estimated for the tentative civil works for the six-lane development of three stretches - Ramanattukara-Valancherry, Valancherry- Kappirikkad and Kappirikkad - Edapally.