Legal Analysis of Environmental Impact Assessment of Konkan Railway Project in India, By Dr. Md. Zafar Mahfooz Nomani,Reader , Faculty of Law,Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh -email@example.com The EIA of ecological resources around the routes of Konkan Railway Project (KRP) represents the dichotomy of environment and development more specifically the infrastructural Project of national importance. Konkan Railway includes 800 km stretch of between Roha and Udipi hilly flat coastal plains. Since this stretch is part of the Western Ghats and the West Coasts, it receives an annual rainfall of 2000-3000 mm; as a result, it is rich in biodiversity. Despite the fact that the MoEF insists that EIA should be done ‘prior'' to site selection and that these should be screening for possible alternatives, there are never done. Sites for development projects are often chosen a priori. The railway line will have 136 major bridges and 1670 minor bridges and there will be 71 tunnels with a total length of 75 kms the biggest railway project undertaken in the Indian Sub-continent in the present century. Under this background the in Goa Foundation pleaded before the Bombay High Court that the Corporation should be compelled to procure environment clearance for the alignment. The proposed alignment has been planned and undertaken without an adequate EIA and an EMP destructive of the environment and the eco-system and violates the citizen''s rights under Article 21 of the Constitution. The proposed alignment passes across the rivers creeks, basins and backwaters, the Corporation had not obtained the statutory clearance required under the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. The petitioners claim that under the provisions of Section 3(2) (v) the MoEF has issued Notification dated February 19, 1991 and restrictions on the setting up or extension of industries, operations or processes in the coastal CRZ are prescribed. The Railway Ministry and the Corporation commissioned services of Rail India Technical and Economical Services (RITES) to assess the EIA of railway project. The Corporation maintained that the claim of the petitioners that the alignment would adversely affect the environment and ecology of the State of Goa is nothing but a figment of imagination and objections are raised with ulterior motives. The Corporation pointed out that the provision of the Environment Act and Notifications issued there under are not binding upon the railway administration and Corporation apart from the fact that all requisite steps for ensuring that the environment will not be adversely affected are already undertaken. The corporation further points out that the alleged breach or violation of the provisions of Forests (Conservation) Act and the Regulation about cutting of trees under the Trees Act is without any merit. The Petitioners, submitted that through the petitioners are not opposing the project undertaken by the Corporation, their challenge is only to the proposed railway alignment as it violates the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act and Regulations and Notifications there under Forest conservation Act and land Acquisition Act.
The Court held that the alignment would have devastating and irreversible impact upon the khazan lands is without any foundation, and even otherwise the extent of damage is extremely negligible and a public project of such a magnitude which is under taken for meeting the aspirations of the people on the consideration it is not open to frustrate the project of public importance to safeguard the interest of few persons. The courts are bound to take into consideration the comparative hardship which the people in the region will suffer by stalling the project of great public utility. Thus the Court formulated the view that the no development is possible without some adverse effect on the ecology and environment but the project of public utility cannot be abandoned and it is necessary tjust the interest of the people as well as the necessity to maintain the environment. The balance has to be struck between the two interests and this exercise must be left to the persons who are familiar and specialized in the field. One of the pertinent issues of EIA raised during the argument was the use forest land for any non-forest purposes. The grievance is that the alignment passes through the forest land and the corporation has not secured prior approval for the use of the land for non-forest purpose. The alignment required cutting of several trees inside as well as outside the forests and such destruction of existing trees is not permissible in view of the provisions of Goa Preservation of Trees Act, 1984. The alignment will extinguish ecologically sensitive areas like Carambolim wetlands where the migratory birds visit during the course of year. They sounded an apprehension that a small lake at Carambolim will be filled up by the Corporation and that would prevent the migratory birds from reaching the State of Goa.The ruling of the court runs that the cheap and fast mode of transport would lead to speedy development of backward areas and declined to exercise writ jurisdiction on the ground that the writ jurisdiction is meant to advance the cause of justice and not to defeat exercise undertaken by the Government for the public benefit. The machinery of the Court should not be used for sub serving the private interest or the interest of a local area to the detriment of the public at large.