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HC asks NHIDCL to ensure minimum trees are felled during widening of Shillong-Dawki road

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Shillong, Dec 16: The Meghalaya High Court on Friday asked the National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) to review its position and ensure that minimum number of trees be touched or felled in course of widening of the road between Anjalee point and Jhalupara and the construction of a flyover at Rilbong point.

The project formed a part of widening of the Shillong-Dawki road of approximately 71 km.

The Court was hearing a PIL filed by an advocate Kaustav Paul into the proposed felling of 103 trees for widening of the road.

The Court said the NHIDCL is also reminded that unlike the temporarily abandoned work on the other stretches after the felling of trees, there can be no lay-off in the work carried out on the Anjalee point to Jhalupara sector, particularly after the trees have been felled.

It has also directed the NHIDCL to furnish timelines with appropriate bar-charts by way of an affidavit, which would also reveal the opinion after conducting a review in the matter of felling of 103 trees on the relevant stretch.

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.

In a previous public interest litigation pertaining to the traffic congestion in the city, it has also been noticed that Rilbong point is a major bottleneck as cars 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 Corporation 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.

According to the Corporation, 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.

The Corporation assured the Court that repeated studies and surveys have been conducted to ensure the least disruption and the minimum desecration of the environment.

The Court said it will be open to the petitioner to inspect the relevant 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,” it said.

Further, the Court said it goes without saying that the NHIDCL will plant equivalent number of trees at the earmarked areas for felling the 103 trees on the relevant stretch.

NHIDCL is also requested 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 stretch of the road.

The next hearing will be held on February 6.

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