NH-4A widening: HC grants stay on felling of trees

Amidst concern over disappearing green cover especially along the Western Ghats region, the Karnataka High Court on Thursday ordered stay on felling of trees for the widening of National Highway 4-A between Belagavi and Goa.

Hearing the public interest litigation filed by environmentalist Suresh Heblikar and convenor of United Conservation Movement Joseph Hoover, the division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Abhay S Oka ordered stay on the axing of trees.

Further, the bench also directed the government to submit detailed information on the number of trees felled for various projects without obtaining prior permission under the Forest Protection Act, February 19, 2019.

The petitioners submitted to the court that any development work in the Western Ghats and areas abutting the fragile Western Ghats would jeopardise the lives of animals and endangered avian species, and sought a stay on works.

The petitioners in their plea also stated that the user agency had taken up widening of 14 km stretch between Belagavi and Goa that pass through the evergreen forests of Dandeli.

“Already about 22,000 trees have been felled for the project and it is likely that another one lakh trees will be axed to facilitate the project. Permission has not been obtained from the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) for the said work. Also, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has not provided any details on compensatory afforestation in lieu of the lost forest cover,” the petitioners argued.

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