Madhya Pradesh: NGT slams trust for felling of 1,300 trees during construction of Statute of Oneness; terms it illegal

Madhya Pradesh: NGT slams trust for felling of 1,300 trees during construction of Statute of Oneness; terms it illegal

The bench said the SDO's permission was not a substitute for the Union government's permission.

PTIUpdated: Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 07:48 PM IST
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New Delhi: The National Green Tribunal has said the cutting of around 1,300 trees by a trust in the course of construction of the Statute of Oneness near Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh was "illegal." The tribunal also observed that felling trees required permission from the Union government and superseded the state laws on the subject.

The tribunal was hearing a petition, according to which the project proponent (PP), Acharya Shankar Sanskritik Ekta Nyas (ASSENYAS), had cut the trees during the construction of the project.

Established in 2017-18, ASSENYAS is an entity under the Madhya Pradesh Public Trusts Act.

A bench of Chairperson Justice A K Goel noted the tribunal had earlier formed a panel, which in its report acknowledged cutting of around 1,300 trees after getting permission from a sub divisional officer (SDO) under the state Act.

SDO's permission not a substitute for Union government's permission

The bench, also comprising Judicial Members Justice Sudhir Agarwal and Justice Arun Kumar Tyagi along with Expert Member Afroz Ahmad, said the SDO's permission was not a substitute for the Union government's permission.

It said the Forest (Conservation) Act overrode the state statute.

"We hold that cutting of trees was illegal for which action includes suitable compensation and afforestation," the bench said.

For the project, all necessary safeguards, including muck disposal in the Narmada river floodplain, had to be taken, it said.

The green panel said proper sanitary conditions, such as sewage and solid waste management, had to be maintained and it had to be duly monitored by the state pollution control board (PCB).

Compensatory afforestation should include indigenous trees

"Only electric motor vehicles be allowed by the visitors or tourists and compensatory afforestation should include plantation of indigenous trees species which should be geo-tagged.," the tribunal said.

It suggested the museum devoted to the life of Adi Shankaracharya could include an interpretation centre pertaining to environmental ethics, flora, fauna and biodiversity, including medicinal plants.

"No further cutting of trees may be done without following due process of law i.e, the permission of the central government," the tribunal said.

According to the petition, during the construction land was dug with heavy machinery without any safeguard to protect the topsoil and debris dumped in the Narmada to the detriment of aquatic life.

Also, there was discharge of untreated sewage in the river, it said.

Earlier in February last year, the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh gave its approval for the project worth Rs 2,141.85 crore under which a 108-feet tall statue of Adi Shankaracharya was to be set up along with a museum and other infrastructure in Omkareshwar, one of the 12 jyotirlingas in the country.

The state government named the statue as Statue of Oneness.

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