National Green Tribunal has ordered the Lakshwadeep Union Government and its Public Works Department to stop the cutting of coconut trees in Agatti island of Lakshwadeep till further hearing. The order to maintain status quo in the region by not cutting more trees was given by the Southern Zone bench of the Tribunal on an environmental concern raised by the residents of the island by an application to the NGT. The Tribunal, comprising of Justice K. Ramakrishnan and Mr. Saibal Das Gupta, found the community's concern to be a substantial question of the environment and ordered for formation of a Committee to probe their allegations against the Government departments.
The community, represented by Mr. P. B. Sahasranaman, informed the Tribunal that there has been an indiscriminate cutting of coconut trees in Agatti Island, Lakshadweep for the purpose of formation of a beach road. It alleged that such cutting was in violation of the Integrated Management Plan in place for Lakshwadeep. The plan was formulated on the basis of a report of an Expert Committee formed by the Supreme Court of India, which was headed by Justice R.V. Raveendran, former Judge of Supreme Court of India. The application also alleged that the cutting of trees is causing a loss of income to the local residents and is largely affecting the environment as the trees standing along the coastal line act as a green belt to protect the land during cyclone and other natural calamity.
They demanded a restrain order to the Government preventing them from cutting more trees and also demanded that the environmental damage caused due to the erstwhile cutting of trees be inspected and remedied. They have also demanded a criminal action against the officials who flouted the Integrated Management Plan of Lakshwadeep without any consent from the Environment Ministry.
The Tribunal on being apprised of the issue has ordered for formation of a committee to inspect the area and ascertain the real state of affairs and the nature of damage likely to be caused from the cutting. It has also directed the Committee to report if there has been any violation of the Integrated Management Plan of Lakshwadeep and to assess the environmental compensation of the violation, to be made by the person(s) responsible for the same.
The Committee formed for this purpose shall be a Joint Committee comprising of
1. Senior Officer of the Regional Office, Chennai of the Environment Ministry
2. Senior Scientist of National Coastal Zone Management Authority
3. Senior Officer, Lakshadweep Coastal Zone Management Authority and
4. Senior Scientist from National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management, Chennai
The Regional Office (Chennai) of the Environment Ministry has been appointed as the nodal agency for coordination, providing necessary logistics and for submitting the report by the Committee.
The Committee has been directed to submit its report by 3rd November 2020 and the matter has been listed for hearing on the same day.
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