HYDERABAD: Telangana State government was squarely blamed when the news of proposed reduction of the eco-sensitive zone around the KBR National Park, from 30 metres to as much as 3 metres, came to light. However, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests is the ‘primary culprit’ behind this mess that is likely to cost Hyderabad a whopping 1,394 trees.
Speaking to Express, Suruchi Singh, the lawyer who fought the case in the National Green Tribunal against reduction of eco-sensitive zone so as to allow the Strategic Road Development Plan, said: “From the first draft notification of the Eco Sensitive Zone(ESZ) that was published in 2015 to current date, there have been lacunae at the level of central as well as state government.”
Once draft notification of ESZ is published, a 60-day window is available for the public to raise objections and if there are no objections, then this draft notification can be finalised and published by the environment ministry. However, when the Expert Committee of the ministry met in May, they did not finalise the draft notification even though no objections were raised within the 60-day period, even by the State government. “Rather, during that meeting, the ministry’s expert committee considered objections raised by government post the 60-day period, to reduce the ESZ from 25-35 metres to a mere 3-7 metres. On top of this, the expert committee blamed the status quo ordered by the NGT for not finalising the draft notification,” Suruchi Singh said.
However, this status quo was on just tree cutting and not on the declaration of ESZs. The MoEF could have also finalised the draft notification at least after the NGT pronounced its judgement in May 2017. But the ministry waited and let the notification to lapse in June.
For, if a draft notification is not finalised in 545 days, it gets elapsed. The sub-rule (3) of Rule 5 under Environment Protection Act, 1986, which gives the 60-day window for raising objections to draft notifications, also mentions that the notification should be finalised within 180 days. Moreover, the Expert Committee had seven meetings before the first draft notification on the national park elapsed in June 2017.