Get fresh eco impact study for PRR: SC to K'taka govt

Get fresh environmental impact study for PRR: Supreme Court to Karnataka govt

 Representative image. (PTI Photo)

The Karnataka government’s proposal to build a peripheral ring road (PRR) in Bengaluru suffered a setback with the Supreme Court on Tuesday directing the Bangalore Development Authority to conduct a “fresh rapid” environmental impact assessment of the project.

Mooted in 2005, the 65-km, eight-lane project aimed to decongest the city traffic, is likely to be further delayed as the court noted the failure of authorities in following the due process in clearing it and making a contradictory stand on the diversion of forest land.

Maintaining that environment protection was an inherent component of development and growth, the top court said compliance with environmental norms cannot be reduced to an ad hoc mechanism where the project proponent sought to remedy its abject failure to disclose material information and sought the requisite clearances at a belated stage.

The final environment clearance to the project, granted in 2014, was based on expired terms of reference on data collected in 2009 and 2010.

It was also in contravention of the guidelines issued by the Centre, the court noted.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemnant Gupta also said the court cannot “gloss over” the “patent contradiction” in disclosing the existence of forest land to be diverted for the project connecting Tumakuru Road to Hosur Road.

The court also pulled up the BDA for delay in granting 25 acres of land in lieu of 1.5 hectares for forest land to be used for the project.

The court also noted “abject failure” by the BDA to disclose the correct number of trees to be felled for the project. The BDA claimed only 200 to 500 trees were to be felled while the deputy conservator of forests revealed that around 16,785 trees were proposed to be cut.

It rejected contentions of BDA counsel senior advocate Shyam Divan and advocate Sanjay M Nuli that the effect of fresh clearance would result in gross escalation in the cost from initially estimate of Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 12,000 crore.

The court upheld the National Green Tribunal’s order of February 8, 2019 for fresh rapid environmental impact assessment. It directed the BDA to ensure that no potential damage was caused to the petroleum pipelines over which the proposed road would be constructed.

The bench clarified that no other court or tribunal should take up any challenge to the decision of State Expert Appraisal Committee and State Environment Impact Assessment Authority and any grievance can be raised before the top court only.

“Where project proponents and institutions abdicate their duty, it is not only the environment that suffers a serious set-back, but also the development of the nation. The protection of the environment ensures a symbiotic relationship between the development of the nation and the protection of the environment”.

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