A committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has submitted a report stating that the proposed widening of the nearly 194-km stretch from Edappally here to Ramanattukara in Kozhikode on NH 66 to a 45-metre wide stretch does not require environmental clearance.
The Southern Bench of the tribunal comprising justice K. Ramakrishnan and expert member Saibal Dasgupta had asked the two-member committee to find out whether there was any violation of environmental laws by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in carrying out the project. They were also told to check whether prior environmental clearance was required. The directive was given following a petition alleging that the stretch was widened without carrying out an environmental impact study.
The committee comprising J. Balachander, General Manager (T) and Project Director, NHAI, Kochi regional office, and S. Prabhu, Scientist-C, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Bengaluru regional office, pointed out that the project does not require environmental clearance even though all the stretches of the highway are considered as one project. It has been divided into five stretches.
Quoting an order by the Supreme Court that ruled that environmental clearance was not required in the case of NH 45-A Villuppuram-Nagapattinam highway, the committee said that the additional right of way was less than 40 metres (38 metres). The right of way in bypasses was also less than 60 metres (45 metres) in the case related to the widening of the NH-66 stretch from Edappally to Ramanattukara.
There is no violation of environmental laws as the work has not yet started, said the report. However, the committee recommended that the project authority should obtain all relevant and applicable statutory clearances prior to start of the work. Necessary dust suppression methods have to be adopted in the construction phase, besides implementing best traffic management measures to avoid traffic snarls.
The NHAI informed that the alignment of the five stretches attracted the provisions of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification. CRZ maps will be prepared by the National Centre for Earth Science Studies (NCESS), Thiruvananthapuram. There is no protected or reserve forest area on the alignment stretch.