The Supreme Court on 23 July 2013 permitted Uttar Pradesh government to cut 697 trees spread across four hectares of protected forests in the Taj Trapezium zone. The green signal was given to pave way for the widening and four-laning of Agra-Shamshabad-Rajakhera Road.
The 12-km long stretch serves as a link to Taj Mahal from Yamuna Expressway and connects the Agra-Gwalior-Mumbai National Highway or National Highway 3 (NH-3). The four-laning and widening of the road is estimated at 103.27 crore rupees.
The green signal was given by a Special Bench of SC comprising of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justuice C.S. Nagappan.
However, the SC Bench laid down some stringent afforestation conditions which needs to be met before the cutting of trees start. It directed the UP government to plant 10 times the felled trees in suitable places which has to be identified by the State Forest Department. It also directed that State government should get a formal approval under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and deposit the net present value of the forest land.
The issue of felling of trees in the Taj Trapezium zone came to the SC bench in November 2013. During that time, SC asked its Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to look into the issue of either safeguarding the trees or favour the development project. The CEC on 5 February 2014 filed its report mentioning that the project was in public interest and there is no other viable alternative to cutting the trees. Even the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest had also gave the in-principle approval to the development project.
In light of the above developments, SC found no reason to disfavour the project and allowed UP government to cut 697 trees.
National Highway 3
National Highway 3, or NH 3, commonly referred to as the Mumbai–Agra Highway or AB Road, is a major Indian National Highway that runs through the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in India. NH 3 runs for a distance of 1,190 km.
The stretch between Agra and Gwalior is marked as the North-South corridor by the National Highways Authority of India. In greater Mumbai area, the highway is also known as Eastern Express Highway which continues as Mumbai Nashik Expressway.
Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ)
Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) is a defined area of 10400 sq km around the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution. The TTZ comprises over 40 protected monuments including three World Heritage Sites — the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri. TTZ is so named since it is located around the Taj Mahal and is shaped like a trapezoid.
On 30 December 1996, the Supreme Court banned the use of coal/ coke in industries located in the TTZ with a mandate for switching over from coal/ coke to natural gas, and relocating them outside the TTZ or shutting down.
On 13 May 1998, Union Ministry of Environment and Forest constituted Taj Trapezium Zone Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority headed Commissioner, Agra Division under sub-sections (1) and (3) of section 3 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.
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Who: Supreme Court
When: 23 July 2014