Court said the law does not require NHAI to obtain prior green clearance for the widening of the Belagavi section to the Goa border

The Karnataka High Court said on Wednesday that there was no need for the National Roads Authority of India (NHAI) to obtain prior environmental clearance for the widening of Belagavi National Road 4A in the Karnataka on the border of Goa.

The court, however, said the enlargement work could only be continued after the Union government extended the validity of its earlier approval in principle under the Forest Conservation Act or granted a new approval, the validity of the approval having expired on December 31, 2020. In addition, the tribunal found that no evidence had been submitted to it to establish that sections of NH-4A in Karnataka and Goa had been “artificially divided” to reduce the length of the highway to less than 100 km in order to avoid obtaining prior environmental authorizations under the 1986 Environment (Protection) Act.

A division bench consisting of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice S. Vishwajith Shetty passed the order while filing a PIL petition from filmmaker and environmentalist Suresh Heblikar and two others. The court said it could not grant the relief requested by the applicants.

Meanwhile, the judiciary ordered the Union government to examine whether the project is subject to a certain ban under the EP Act. The House also left the Union Government the option of taking action under the Biological Diversity Act 2002 while giving petitioners the freedom to file their representation with the Center with respect to measures to avoid or minimize the negative impact of the project on biodiversity.

The petition was filed in January 2019 and the High Court in November 2019 prevented the NHAI from continuing work due to a lack of clarity on whether or not the widening work required environmental clearance.

The NHAI had told the court that it had not “artificially” divided the NH-4A widening project, as the proposal to widen the stretch of the highway in Goa was only at the stage. of the project report, while 70% of the highway widening works from Belagavi in ‚Äč‚ÄčKarnataka to the Goa border had already been completed. The NHAI had told the court in 2019 that it was not expanding the 13.32 km stretch of NH-4A through the Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary.

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