Nagpur: The Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court, on Monday, adjourned a PIL seeking stay on proposed felling of 4,930 trees of Ajni Vann for Inter Modal Station (IMS) project, to the first week of July.
Since the very source of number of trees could not be placed before the High Court, a Division Bench comprising Justice Sunil Shukre and Justice Anil Kilor indicated that they would hear the matter after petitioners Shweta Burbure and Ajay Tiwari obtain information under Right to Information (RTI) Act from Nagpur Municipal Corporation (NMC). NMC informed the High Court that its proposed hearing had been postponed to June 30 and after the civic body’s public hearing, the petition might become infructuous or might survive.
Senior Counsel C S Kaptan informed the court that on behalf of petitioners, necessary record had been inspected and requisite information would be provided in the next couple of days. Since the process of filing of objections is on after which a public hearing is scheduled, he suggested postponing the hearing after the statutory procedure was over.
Adv M Anil Kumar informed that National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had mentioned in its application the number of trees along with details of species and stated that number had been disclosed by NMC in its public notice inviting objections and suggestions from citizens. Under the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, 1975, NMC is duty-bound to protect the trees, the petitioners contended while seeking to draw attention towards the recent amendments to the Act proposed by State Cabinet last week granting heritage status to trees older than 50 years and constitution of State Level Tree Authority to consider any proposal to chop off more than 250 trees.
The High Court, after a brief hearing, adjourned the matter till July. The PIL has opposed the move of the civic body to chop off fully grown trees leading to devastation of Ajni Vann and questioned the very need to cut the trees for IMS. Under the Maharashtra (Urban Areas) Protection and Preservation of Trees Act, it is the duty of NMC to protect trees. But its Tree Authority is merely granting permission to reduce the green cover, the PIL noted while citing several instances of depleting green cover of the second capital of Maharashtra.
The petitioners also claimed that NHAI, which is the nodal agency to execute the project, has claimed that out of 7,000 trees only 1,940 trees would be cut while NMC had put the number at 4,930. The petition also raised doubts about the success of relocation of trees and claimed that all previous experiments yielded mixed results.