The Karnataka High Court in connection with a public interest plea filed on challenging the road widening work on the Belagavi-Goa National Highway 4A (NH4A) issued a notice to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI).
A division bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice L Narayana Swamy and Justice P S Dinesh Kumar, was hearing the petition filed by environmentalists Suresh Heblikar, Joseph Hoover and J Manjunath seeking directions to the NHAI to stop the ‘illegal road widening work’ in Belagavi and surrounding districts.
The petitioners have contended that according to a newspaper report, about 22,000 trees were felled for the widening of the highway in the Khanapur-Londa area of Belagavi district that passes through the highway and they have been felled without any accountability.
The petitioners have also contended that while NH4A is from Belagavi to Goa, there is no approval for the road widening that passes through the Mollem Wildlife Sanctuary and Mahaveer National Park in Goa. They also stated that after tree felling inside some critically eco-fragile zones, the NHAI had issued notification for acquiring private land in a newspaper, which proves that there is a hurried effort to clear every single tree in the forest land without ensuring that land acquisition process for the entire length of NH4A is completed by involving all stakeholders. The petitioners further contended that about 14 km of the stretch passes through a thick forest which is home to wildlife including elephants, tigers and cobras. The proposed road passes through a critical elephant corridor between Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuary and forests of Khanapur and Jamboti, they said.
The petitioners also contended that the NHAI, without getting the clearance from the wildlife board and not acquiring the land from private parties, cannot destroy the elephant reserve and dense forest in Belagavi district and surrounding districts for the purpose of the widening of NH4A. The court adjourned the hearing.