Punamchand v. Union of India
Side A: Punamchand (Individual)
Side B: Union of India (Government)
Alleging that certain forest lands illegally diverted for non-forest purposes.
The Applicants filed Writ Petition in the High Court of Judicature of Bombay Bench at Aurangabad, alleging that certain forest lands were being illegally diverted for non-forest purposes, which would cause felling of trees to the extent of 2.5 to 3 lakhs and that would be a great loss to the environment. By order dated October 1st, 2003, Division Bench of the High Court, transferred the Writ Petition to this Tribunal in view of Judgment of the Apex Court in the case of "Bhopal Gas Peedith Mahila Udyog Sangathan & Anr Vs Union of India" (2012) 8, SCC 326. The case of the Applicants, as can be gathered from the pleadings of the Writ Petition, is that there are ten projects as stated in the petition, which are Irrigation Projects of large scale, minor scale, Percolation Tank etc. For the purpose of these irrigation projects, the Respondents have planned to divert forest area, without taking due Forest Clearance (FC) from the competent Authority. They are likely to cut down large number of trees in the range of 2.5 to 3 lakhs, which will cause severe environmental damage. The Applicants further allege that some part of Yawal sanctuary is likely to be submerged in irrigation project called "Handya-Kundya"Project, which will affect the wildlife in the said sanctuary. So also, it will affect Teak wood and Bamboo trees within the area of said sanctuary. The Respondent Nos.2 to 6 (2.The State of Maharashtra, 3. The Chief Conservator of Forests, Seminary hills, Nagpur, 4. The Conservator of Forests, Dist. Dhule, 5. The Deputy Conservator of Forests, Jalgaon Division 6, The Deputy Conservator of Forests, Yawal Division), resisted the petition on various grounds. According to them, total land covered by the said ten projects is 6,394.18 Ha. All the projects are for public welfare and the cost benefit ratio is more than the loss of number of trees, which is estimated during the study that was undertaken before planning of the projects. They submit that by way of compensation equal area of non- forest land was received and shall be utilized for afforestation. They further submit that they will plant large number of trees over the available land of 1423.8 Ha. The felling of trees is 133179, whereas 2562966 seedlings are sought to be planted. The project will solve the water scarcity problem faced by the local public members. It will also cause benefit to the Agriculturists, because irrigation facility will be available to them for irrigation of their lands. It is denied that wildlife is likely to be disturbed due to the projects or any part thereof. After hearing the matter, the Tribunal gave the following directions:
- The Respondent Nos.2 to 6 shall monitor plantation of adequate number of trees, as far as possible of 1:8 ratio and make serious endeavor to protect the plants to improve survival rate of the trees.
- The projects shall be implemented peri pasu with the process of plantation, proper maintenance, rearing, monitoring, watering and protecting of plants, to ensure that when the projects are completed, the plants will be transformed as trees.
The Application was disposed of. No costs.