The Meghalaya High Court has requested the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) to ensure that less number of trees is cut in the course of widening of the road from Anjalee point to Jhalupara in the city and the construction of the proposed flyover.
It may be mentioned that NHIDCL is planning to widen the road between Anjalee point and Jhalupara and also construct a flyover at Rilbong point as part of widening of the Shillong-Dawki road of approximately 71 km.
According to NHIDCL, there is a major bottleneck at Rilbong point where the road turns right towards Guwahati and carries on straight towards Upper Shillong when vehicles approach from Anjalee point.
During today’s hearing in the court, NHIDCL stated that after a lot of persuasion at the behest of the State government, precious defence land has been handed over for the purpose of widening of the road and access to such defence land necessitates the felling of the 103 trees towards the right of the road while approaching from Anjalee point to Jhalupara.
While assuring the court that repeated studies and surveys have been conducted to ensure the least disruption and the minimum desecration of the environment, NHIDCL maintained that any impediment to the proposed construction on the Anjalee-Jhalupara section will lead to cost escalation and add to the woes of the already congested traffic in entering and exiting Shillong.
Agreeing with the NHIDCL contention regarding traffic jam in the city, the division bench of the High Court also mentioned that in a previous PIL pertaining to the traffic congestion in the city, it has been noticed that Rilbong point is a major bottleneck as vehicles approach from three directions on a regular basis and the waiting period can run into several hours when traffic is at its worst.
“Indeed, on the Guwahati-Shillong road downhill, traffic may be seen piled up beyond Mawlai and, sometimes way down till Mawiong,” the court said.
The High Court also asked NHIDCL to see that there should be no halt in the work on the Anjalee point to Jhalupara sector, particularly after the trees have been felled.
“Due timelines with appropriate bar-charts in such regard should be furnished by the NHIDCL by way of an affidavit. The relevant affidavit will also reveal the opinion after conducting a review in the matter of felling of 103 trees on the relevant stretch. Such an affidavit be filed within a week after the vacation,” the court said.
The High Court also said that Kaustav Paul, the lawyer who filed the PIL regarding felling of trees for this road project, is free to inspect the stretch of road where 103 number of trees are proposed to be felled, of which nine have already been taken down.
“Without causing any delay to the project, the petitioner may also explore measures, with the assistance of NGOs and experts, to transplant any precious or valuable tree that is proposed to be brought down,” the court added.
Further, the High Court told the NHIDCL to plant an equivalent number of trees at the earmarked areas for felling the 103 trees on the relevant stretch. The court also requested NHIDCL to ensure that appropriate tall trees are planted after the completion of the project so that some of the pristine glory is returned to such a stretch of the road.
The next hearing on the matter will be held on February 6, 2023.