NEW DELHI, June 13 - The Supreme Court has said it is aware of the constitutional duty to protect the environment but, at the same time, it cannot be oblivious to the economic impact.
Hearing a petition on Dehing Patkai, a Bench of Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy said saving the environment should not come at the cost of economic development, adding, a balance should be struck between the two.
�We are conscious of the fact that our orders in favour of environment affect economic development adversely. There has to be some method by which economic development is not retarded as this has a direct impact on poverty in the country,� the bench said.
In his plea, advocate Abir Phukan had sought a ban on mining in the Saleki proposed reserve forest pointing out that the area, situated close to the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary in Assam, is an elephant corridor.
The Centre opposed the plea, claiming that the environmental impact had been assessed by the NBWL.
It may be mentioned here that the State-owned Coal Indian Limited had obtained approval for mining from the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) in April this year.
The court also issued notice on the application moved by Phukan and directed the Centre to come out with a proposal for an alternative site in three weeks. Moreover, the petitioner was asked to add North Eastern Coalfields, a unit of Coal India, as a party to the case.
The NBWL standing committee gave approval to North Eastern Coalfields on April 7 at a meeting conducted through videoconferencing. The total lease area of 98.59 hectares is situated within a 10-km radius from the boundary of Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary.
The petition pointed out that on August 29, 2019, the NBWL standing committee had advised a cautious approach, suggesting that views of wildlife experts be sought to assess the impact of mining in the elephant corridor, considering the area�s rich biodiversity.