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SC forms 7-member panel to suggest logging guidelines for development projects | India News

NEW DELHI: To make a realistic assessment of the economic value of a tree that needs to be felled for a development project, the Supreme Court on Thursday convened a 7-member expert panel to suggest a set of scientific and policy guidelines.
The superior court said that whenever it is necessary to cut down trees for a project, the moot question is how the authority or organization in question can calculate fair and equitable compensation.
A bank of Chief Justice Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said: “We have no doubt that such compensation should be calculated and paid as part of the project cost of the project that requires logging and such compensation should be used expertly to create a better environment and, most importantly, increase afforestation.
“It is therefore imperative to make a realistic assessment of the economic value of a tree, which it can afford to cut, with reference to its value to the environment and its longevity, with respect to factors such as oxygen production and carbon sequestration. . , soil conservation, protection of flora / fauna, their role in the integrity of the habitat and the ecosystem and any other ecologically relevant factor, other than wood / wood ”.
Appointed a seven-member panel headed by MK Ranjitsinh Jhala, Wildlife Expert and former President of Wildlife Trust of India, Jigmet Takpa, Deputy Secretary of MoEFCC as Member Secretary, Arun Singh Rawat, Director General of the Indian Forest Research Council, Sandeep Tambe, Gopal Singh Rawat, Former Dean and Director of the Indian Wildlife Institute, Nilanjan Ghosh, Director of the Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, and Pradeep Krishen.
The bank said the committee “will develop a set of scientific and policy guidelines that will govern decision-making regarding logging for development projects.”
He said that these guidelines can specify tree species in categories based on their environmental values ​​considering the age and girth of the trees, etc. and provide a special treatment for the geographic area or the eco-sensitive area, they can identify areas that need to be regulated and even identify a minimum threshold beyond which the guidelines will apply.
“The guidelines will prescribe a mechanism for evaluating the intrinsic and instrumental value of trees, based not only on the value of wood, but also on the ecosystem services provided by trees and their special relevance, if any, to the habitat. from other trees. living organisms, soil, running and ground water, ”said the bank.
He said the guidelines framed by the panel will also require rules regarding alternative routes / sites for roads / projects, and the possibilities of using alternative modes of transportation such as railways or waterways.
“The guidelines will also prescribe the form of economic and other compensation, the stage of deposit of said compensation and the process that governs the computation and recovery. In this sense, the committee may consider the existing regulatory framework regarding the calculation of the Net Present Value (NPV) and may suggest the necessary modification ”, he said.
He said the panel may consider the need for any permanent expert body and its proposed structural form and directed the Center to ensure that all information / statistics necessary for the deliberations are available.
He appointed attorney K Parameshwar as amicus curiae to assist the court in all issues raised in the matter and said he will also assist the constituted committee in the legal aspects involved in framing and institutionalizing the guidelines he proposes.
The higher court listed the matter after four weeks.
The court said: “The right to a clean and healthy environment has been recognized as the fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 48-A imposes on the State the duty to endeavor to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the country’s forests and wildlife ”.
The high court was hearing a case against the felling of more than 350 trees for the construction of a railway over bridges (ROB) and the widening of National Highway 112 from Barasat to Petrapole on the Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal.
The project in West Bengal involved the construction of five railway bridges over a six-kilometer stretch and the number of trees to be felled is 306 and the report of the previously constituted committee of experts indicated that some 50 trees had already been felled.
A committee of four experts, previously appointed by the high court, had valued the 300 heritage trees that would be cut down for the construction of five bridge railways in West Bengal at Rs 220 million in terms of oxygen and other products they provide.
On August 31, 2018, the High Court of Kolkata paved the way for the extension of the national highway and allowed the felling of more than 350 trees for the widening of Jessore Road, which connects the city with Petrapole on the border between Indus and Bangladesh, on the condition that five trees be planted for each tree cut.
The NH-112 or Jessore Road is an important link between India and Bangladesh and the state government had undertaken a project to expand it. Hundreds of old trees line both sides of the road, some of which it was decided to cut down for the purpose of widening the road.

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