Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding protection of environment along the highways, 03/12/2020
Order of the National Green Tribunal in the matter of Society for Protection of Culture, Heritage, Environment, Traditions and Promotion of National Awareness Vs National Highway Authority of India & Others dated 03/12/2020.
The issue for consideration is the remedial action for protection of the environment along the highways. The steps include green cover to minimize the impact of dust pollution on account of traffic, leaving space on both sides of highways for tree plantation and expansion, preventing direct access to the highways without bye-lanes/exit routes and regulating the opening of access to the buildings directly from the highways.
The bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel and Sheo Kumar Singh noted that green cover on both sides of highways is absolutely essential to mitigate adverse impact of vehicular pollution on the highways, which is an acknowledged fact by the concerned authorities. The dust leads to an increase of PM2.5 and PM10 and consequential health hazards. The pollution is aggravated by permitting constructions close to the highways, making it impossible to provide green cover.
The NGT direced the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) and concerned Central and State ministries to develop appropriate mechanism for compliance of the law, which may be overseen by the environmental regulatory authorities in the Central Government as well as in the States.
The NGT also said that while granting Environmental Clearance, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) to ensure that an effective monitoring mechanism exists to ensure compliance of requisite safeguards including the plantations on the road sides and keeping such roadsides free from encroachments upto specified distance. NHAI and NHIDCL must give undertaking of responsible level officers to take ownership of maintaining environmental norms instead of taking a plea that it was not their basic responsibility and responsibility was of the contractor, the order said.