Mumbai: Granting permission to the National High Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) to cut 21,997 mangroves for the Bullet train project, the Bombay High Court has observed that there is a need for “sustainable development” to ensure a balance between the need for development and economy and protection and conservation of the environment.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Abhay Ahuja, on Dec 9, allowed the corporation to fell over 21,000 mangrove trees with the condition that it will plant compensatory 1,10,000 saplings. NHSRCL had approached the HC seeking permission to cut mangroves for the project.
In a detailed 56-page judgment made available on Tuesday, the HC said the concept of ‘sustainable development’ has been discussed by the Supreme Court on various occasions. “It has been consistently observed that while economic development should not be allowed to take place at the cost of ecology or by causing widespread environment destruction and violation, the necessity to preserve ecology and environment should not hamper economic and other development,” said the HC.
The HC said that sustainable development has been aptly described in the Rio Declaration (held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992), wherein it has been agreed that “in order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and the same cannot be considered in isolation of it”. The same principle was articulated in the 1997 Earth Summit, added HC.
The bench also remarked, “In our view, considering the advantages, the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project is in public interest and necessary for public good and a project of bona fide public utility.”
Terming the project as “a convenio par excellence for the rail passengers of the two cities and the two states”, the HC said it will reduce travel time from present six-and-half to two-and-half hours and reduce carbon footprint. It will increase connectivity between the busy trade corridor of Ahmedabad and Mumbai, which will increase the economic productivity. Running on electricity, it will not only save valuable cost on conventional fuel but also generate employment.
The court also took note of the fact that the NHSRCL and the government have prepared a comprehensive mangrove conservation management plan wherein the corporation has not only undertaken to plant saplings but also deposited an amount of Rs9.95 crore.
Further, the court remarked that the concepts of public trusteeship/the public trust doctrine enjoins upon the government to protect the resources for enjoyment of the general public rather than to permit their use for private ownership or commercial purposes.
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