NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court constituted on Thursday a committee of environment experts to suggest an alternative to felling of over 350 trees for construction of railway over bridges (ROB) and widening of National Highway-112 from Barasat to Petrapole on the Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal.
"When we cut a heritage tree, imagine the value of the oxygen the tree produced all these years," the top court said.
A bench consisting Chief Justice S A Bobde, Justice B R Gavai and Justice Surya Kant asked the four-member committee, which included environmentalist Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment, to furnish its report in four weeks and listed the matter after five weeks.
"This case presents usual dilemma between environment degradation and development. Obviously, each situation involves different considerations," the bench said.
It added that whatever be the method adopted for evaluation of the loss to the environment, it is desirable that alternatives to proposed felling of heritage trees is considered by experts.
During the hearing, the bench told the West Bengal government, "When we cut a heritage tree, imagine the value of the oxygen the tree produced all these years. Compare it to how much you would have to pay for equivalent amount of oxygen these trees produced, if you have to buy it from somewhere else".
Chief Justice Bobde recalled that when the Nagpur-Jabalpur road was constructed around 4,000 trees were cut.
"Legally, the decision to construct the road was upheld by the High Court but loss to the nature was enormous," he said, adding prima facie it is in the favour of construction of ROBs and widening of the road but if the alternatives can be found then there is no harm in exploring them.
At the outset, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Association for Protection of Democratic Rights (APDR) said that no alternatives were explored and permission was granted to fell the trees, which are heritage ones aged around 80-100 years.
He said everyone knows about global warming and there is study which says if the vegetation is not protected then in next 10-20 years the human species will be in danger.
Bhushan suggested that underpasses could be constructed instead of railway over bridges and alignment of roads could be changed to avoid cutting of trees.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singvi, appearing for West Bengal said the Calcutta High Court had gone into all the aspects after which it granted permission to fell 356 trees, which is required for the construction of ROBs and widening of road.
"ROBs need to be constructed as people are dying in accidents. Several people have lost their lives. We need bridges to protect them. The Calcutta High Court had also constituted a committee which looked into all these aspects," he said.
Bhushan said the high court-appointed committee had said that there are heritage trees in the area and if one such treRead More – Source