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NGT Southern Bench restrains Auroville Foundation from cutting trees for road project

Learned Counsel appearing for the applicant, Mr. A Yogeshwaran had relied on certain newspaper reports to convince regarding the location of area with large number of trees and the manner in which cutting are done by using heavy machineries.

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The National Green Tribunal Southern Bench has issued a status-quo order directing the Auroville Foundation not to cut any further trees in order to protect and preserve the property which is said to be under danger.

The order states that the Auroville Foundation is directed to file their response or objection to the allegations made in the application on the next hearing date so that the question as to whether interim order will have to be continue or not can be considered on that date.

The grievance in the application is that the Auroville Foundation is engaged in cutting large scale trees from Auroville Forest area which has its own biological diversity and eco-sensitiveness.

It is stated that Auroville Foundation was established in 1968 as an autonomous body and they visualized a project for development of their area. They are developing a township on the basis of a master plan prepared by them not approved by any authority. Earlier, they had done some construction alone but now in the guise of expanding the project by providing a ring road by name ‘Crown Road’, they have now proposed to cut a large number of trees from the area which will come under the definition of ‘Deemed Forest’ as envisaged by the Apex Court in Godavaraman Case. If this is allowed to be cut without obtaining necessary planning and permission, then it will have great impact on the environment.

Learned Counsel appearing for the applicant, A. Yogeshwaran, had relied on certain newspaper reports to convince regarding the location of area with large number of trees and the manner in which cutting are done by using heavy machinery.

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Though certain objections were raised before the authorities, no action was being taken by the authorities which prompted the applicant to file this application, claiming to be environmental activist to protect the Auroville Forest area against destruction.

Learned Counsel appearing for the State of Tamil Nadu, Dr. D. Shanmuganathan, submitted that Tamil Nadu Government has no interest in this matter. Though part of the area is falling within Tamil Nadu, the area where activities are going on is exclusively in the possession of the Auroville Foundation and high dignitaries are at the helm of affairs of the administration of the Foundation.

“We are satisfied that there arises a substantial question of environment as to whether any permission is required under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 for cutting trees from an area which can be treated as a ‘Deemed Forest’ under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980,”

-The tribunal opined.

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The division bench of Justice K. Ramakrishnan and Dr. Satyagopal Korlapati issued notice to the respondents by e-mail and also by speed post.

“Considering the urgency of the matter, we feel that ex-parte interim order will have to be passed, as if no interim order is passed then it is likely to cause greater damage to the environment,” the bench said. It has been next listed on December 17.

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