The Supreme Court Wednesday permitted Northern Railways to axe over 400 trees in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) for construction of an additional rail track between Delhi and Agra if mandatory compensatory afforestation is undertaken.
A bench comprising Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices SA Nazeer and Sanjiv Khanna, decided to monitor the afforestation to be undertaken by the Railways and directed the member secretary of the National Legal Service Authority Of India (NALSA) to appoint a person to visit the tree plantation sites regularly and file a report before it.
"We want a report on (plantation of saplings) in every three months updating on the conditions of the saplings, whether they have died or are alive and whether they are properly watered or not," the bench said.
The bench said that the person, to be appointed by NALSA, will see whether the dried saplings have been replaced or not and he will file a report after every three months.
The Railways have sought permission to fell 452 trees under TTZ for its railway project between Mathura and Palwal.
TTZ is an area of about 10,400 sq km spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and the Bharatpur district of Rajasthan and the apex court has been hearing the PIL of environmentalist MC Mehta on preserving Taj Mahal and its surroundings.
Dealing with another plea alleging overflowing drains in Agra, especially in TTZ, the bench asked environmentalist Mehta and NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) to inspect the city of Agra and file a report within eight weeks suggesting measures to deal with the problems.
"Give us a report on drains overflowing in Agra. There are open drains in TTZ, it is said water flows out on streets, it also resulted in breeding of mosquitoes," the bench said.
The apex court on December 6 had permitted the Uttar Pradesh government and other authorities to grant environmental clearances (ECs) to various projects such as drinking water supply, sewerage treatment plant and drainage system at the TTZ.
The bench had modified its earlier order after taking note of the fact that the state government has complied with the direction by filing the ''vision document'' on protection and preservation of Taj Mahal and environment in TTZ.
It had taken note of the state''s plea that now the government and other statutory authorities be permitted to grant ECs "which are necessary for providing essential public facilities including drinking water supply, sewerage treatment plant, drainage system, solid waste disposal, Common Effluent Treatment Plant, Bio Medical Waste Treatment Facility, and Waste to Energy Plants".
The top court has been monitoring developments in the area to protect the monument, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal in 1631. The mausoleum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.