A bench headed by acting Chairperson Justice U D Salvi passed the order after it was informed that the final approval under Forest Conservation Act has been granted to the project by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.
"The counsel appearing on behalf of project proponent submits that the final approval under Forest Conservation Act has been granted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change vide communication dated January 16, 2017 and nothing survives in the present case," the bench noted.
The directions came after the NGT heard a plea by Lucknow native Nikhilesh Singh against illegal felling of trees and construction activity in the forest area which forms part of the six-lane expressway being built by UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA).
The plea, filed through advocate Neelam Rathore, alleged that the Stage I in-principle approval has been recommended by Regional Empowered Committee (REC) despite recording violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and specifically noting irregularities mentioned in the site inspection report.
Singh has contended that salient features of the project as incorporated in the environmental clearance stated that "only around 98.9 hectares of forest land was to be involved and about 27,582 trees were located on the Principal Right of Way (PRoW)".
"However, in its application for seeking the necessary in principal approval in terms of the Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, UPEIDA mentioned the total length of the expressway proposed being 302.222 km comprising 3429.1814 hectare of non-forest and 12,38,253 hectare of forest land involving felling of 65,342 number of trees," the plea said.
"The estimated cost of the project was 11,526 crore. The reserved and protected forest lands proposed for the diversion are 109.27 hectares and 14.5543 hectares respectively.
"There is thus an apparent inconsistency in the relevant information disclosed by UPEIDA for in principle approval and for EC with respect to the area of forest land and the number of trees involved in the proposal," it said.
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