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HC wants Shillong-Dawki road expansion without felling heritage trees  

Shillong, July 22: High Court of Meghalaya has ordered that the highway expansion project  should be completed at the earliest in public interest without cutting the heritage trees in Upper Shillong.

The division bench comprising Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and judge HS Thangkhiew heard the pending PIL on  felling of some heritage trees , particularly in the vicinity of the Eastern Air Command,  for  widening National Highway- 40, which connects Shillong to Dawki.

Earlier on June 30, the court had constituted a High Powered Committee (HPC) to suggest ways and means to resolve the issue without compromising either with conservation of trees and environment on one hand and development/expansion of the road project on the other.

The five-member HPC submitted its report on July 21.

The court observed that the HPC held extensive deliberations and also visited the project site.

The HPC has submitted its findings for resolution of the ILP.

As per HPC, the NHIDCL has agreed to execute the project for expansion of road from Shillong to Dawki without cutting any heritage tree (between Chainage km 6.590 to km 7.360)

135 heritage trees to be saved  

As per the undertaking of NHIDCL, around 135 heritage trees falling on the right of way will be saved in pursuance of the understanding reached between all the stakeholders between the Chainage stretch of 6130-7360.

As and when the need arises, the user agency/concerned authority can approach the state government for seeking approval for laying down utility infrastructure like water pipeline and telephone lines and others through reserved forest in terms of general approval of the Centre under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and MoEF and CC guidelines for the public utility projects.

Transplantation of certain non-heritage trees is not a viable solution since it appears to be costly and cumbersome.

Hence, the HPC is of the view that compensatory afforestation and strip plantation may be adopted as an effective and viable solution.

“The highway expansion project should be completed at the earliest in public interest without cutting the heritage trees as discussed above. The concerned parties are, therefore, directed to take steps in the manner as indicated by the high powered committee, hereinabove,” the court said.

The matter will come up for hearing on August 9.

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