Why cut trees for widening of roads, asks Supreme Court

Why cut trees for widening of roads, keep roads zigzag, avoid accidents: Supreme Court

It is not possible for us to accept a compensation in merely arithmetical terms, said the court on compensatory reforestation

Supreme Court of India. Credit: Reuters Photo

The Supreme Court on Wednesday wondered why trees need to cut more often than needed for the widening of roads, as keeping the pathways zig-zag would reduce the speed of vehicles and save lives caused by accidents.

"Why do roads have to be laid in a straight line by cutting trees? Keep roads zigzag. It will reduce speed, lessen accidents on roads and save many lives," a bench presided over by Chief Justice S A Bobde said.

The court's suggestion came while hearing a plea by the Uttar Pradesh government for felling 2,940 trees for the Krishna Goverdhan road project in Mathura. The court asked the state government to evaluate trees in terms of the oxygen level that they would have given in their lifetime.

The court said that the though PWD assured that they will compensate by planting the same number trees in another area so that there was no loss to the environment in general, it is obvious that there cannot be compensatory reforestation if 100-year-old tree is cut down, the court added. 

"It is not possible for us to accept a compensation in merely arithmetical terms especially when there is no statement forthcoming from Uttar Pradesh or PWD as to nature of trees whether they are classified as shrubs or large trees," the bench said.

The court also pointed out moreover, there was no information available regarding the age of trees.

"Clearly they cannot do so in terms of timber but must adopt a method of evaluation which takes into account oxygen-producing capacity of the particular tree over the remaining life span, assuming it may be cut now," the court said.

Acting as amicus, advocate A D N Rao said there was a method of Net Present Value(NPV) for evaluation of trees. 

The court asked the Uttar Pradesh government to consider the NPV value and respond within two weeks.

"The UP government is to ascertain the total number of trees to be felled for building roads. It is clear that only effect, if the trees are retained, would be roads may not be straight and therefore incapable of high speed traffic. Such an affect may not be necessarily deleterious,"(sic) the bench said.

The court posted the matter for consideration after four weeks.