Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary near Mumbai exempted from ESZ mandate by SC

Practical difficulties and ground realities need to be taken in account for 1 km ESZ, says apex court

By Shuchita Jha
Published: Saturday 03 December 2022
We are all for the protection of the environment. But at the same time, we cannot halt development, Justice BR Gavai said.

The Supreme Court (SC) December 1, 2022, exempted Maharashtra’s Tungareshwar Wildlife Sanctuary (TWS) from its June 3 order mandating the creation of a one-kilometre eco-sensitive zone (ESZ) around all Protected Areas in India.

It also stated that practical difficulties and ground realities will have to be taken into account before having a uniform order for creating ESZs as mandated by the June 3 order.

The bench, comprising Justices BR Gavai and Vikram Nath, is hearing applications filed in the TN Godavarman Thirumalpad case that has sought exemption from the order.

The bench observed that there are instances of notified forests within city areas, where urban activities might have taken place for the past several years, legal news website Live Law reported. TWS is located in the suburbs of Mumbai.

Read SC order on eco-sensitive zone has no scientific basis, case-to-case ESZ needed, say experts

“The orders cannot be passed in the air. While passing orders, some ground realities have also to be taken into consideration,” Justice Gavai said.

The judge said there is an area notified as forest on the route between Jaipur city and its airport. “If in such places, the condition (for ESZ) is accepted, then the entire road will have to be demolished or converted into forest. Then there will be no connectivity for the city,” Justice Gavai said according to Live Law.

“We are all for the protection of the environment. But at the same time, we cannot halt development,” Justice Gavai said.

The bench passed the order exempting TWS after hearing an application filed by CREDAI-MCHI, a body consisting of members from the real estate sector in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region.

It took an earlier order exempting the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and Thane Creek Flamingo Sanctuary in Mumbai into account.

On September 3, the SC had clarified that the June 3 mandate had been modified June 30, allowing ongoing projects to continue.

The Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta submitted that he will discuss the matter of some forests being exempted from the June 3 order with the amicus curiae K Parameshwar.

He added that the Indian Railways had also filed an application requesting modification of the order as linear railway projects pass through different states, making it compulsory for them to seek permissions from different states individually.

“(The bench proposed that) instead of going to each state forest department, one permission could be taken from the Ministry of Environment and Forest. The Solicitor General informed the court that he will have to take instructions on it,” Live Law reported.

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