NGT directs NHAI to avoid cutting Chevella banyans

The agecy has been told to come up with alternative plan for widening of the 46-km road stretch along NH-163

Published: 17th April 2023 07:53 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th April 2023 07:53 AM   |  A+A-

banyan trees

Image used for representative purpose only. (File photo | EPS)

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) in its latest order has directed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to prepare an alternative plan to avoid axing 705 banyan trees on the NH-163. Noting the “special nature” of the Chevella Banyan trees on the NH-163, the NGT directed the NHAI to come up with a detailed plan to save all the banyan trees.

Earlier, the NHAI stated that it would spare 155 out of the 705 trees on the 46.405-km stretch on NH 163, between at Appa Junction and Manneguda. It decided to cut down 550 trees for a road-widening project.
The highway authority defended the move to fell trees as the entire stretch is in serpentine shape and the proposed national highway should be straight.

The NGT in this regard directed the NHAI to submit the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Management Plan (EMP) prepared as part of the final feasibility report. However, the EMP produced by the NHAI only speaks about the Monitoring Plan and EMP and has only addressed the methodology for the translocation of trees apart from safety measures for growing trees. This clearly indicated that NHAI has not done EIA.

The NHAI stated that for road widening projects neither an Environmental Clearance (EC) nor an EIA study is required. However, the NGT considered this a peculiar situation as 705 banyan trees are at risk of being felled down for the road widening. It also took into consideration the fact that the banyan trees with their wider trunks and large canopy house a wide variety of avian and other species. Hence, it requires a special study before they are uprooted or cut, the NGT noted.

The NGT noted that at some places, the banyan trees are in clusters. The proposed widening of the road also cuts across several hamlets and villages. In this background, the NHAI has been directed to conduct a detailed study to consider whether such underpasses can be avoided to save the clusters of trees and whether any alternative access can be provided to the hamlets which would minimise the cutting of the trees. Hence, the NGT directed the NHAI to do a study on these aspects and come up with a report at the earliest. The next hearing will be on May 3.


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