Taking strong exception to the failure of the Tamil Nadu Government in maintaining a biodiversity register, the Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Government pleader to get instructions from the appropriate authority as to why biodiversity management committees (BMC) have not been formed in the State, whether a biodiversity register is prepared for the State and within what time frame, the Tree Act will be enacted in Tamil Nadu.
Further referring to a newspaper report that appeared in 2013 that Tamil Nadu is lagging in management of biodiversity and only 13 such committees have been formed in the State whereas Madhya Pradesh had 23,743 BMC as of 2013 itself, the bench wondered as to how the project proponent would answer the question as to whether the project is a threat to biodiversity.
“If biodiversity register is not been maintained in the State of Tamil Nadu, then how would the project proponent would reply to such a question and why such a delay in constituting such committees,” the bench asked.
Also, referring to another report that 19 biodiversity management committees have been formed in the State and that forest minister had claimed that the process would be expedited after the local body elections are completed, the bench also held “In terms of Section 41 of the Biodiversity Act, 2002, every local body shall constitute a BMC. Thus, it is mandatory under a central legislation to constitute a management committee at Panchayat level and it appears that elections to the local bodies can have no impact on constitution of such committees.”
Further, citing the illegal felling of tree very close to the proposed alignment of the project highway and the said issue is still pending before us, the bench which sought the State the come out with a time frame in enacting the Tree Act, said “We are informed that the Tree Act has not been enacted in the State of Tamil Nadu, though it appears that certain NGOs, who were interested in early enactment of such a statute had even prepared a draft act.”
Senior Counsel Raja had contended that before any proceedings are initiated under the National Highways Act, environmental impact assessment clearance has to be obtained or else, the words “prior environmental clearance” losses its meaning.