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HC forms panel to suggest ways to save the trees to be cut for

Hearing a petition against felling of trees to widen roads ahead of the next year’s Kumbh Mela in Nashik, the Bombay High Court formed a panel headed by the chief conservator of forests to study the issue.

The division bench of Justices Abhay Oka and Ajay Gadkari said the committee would invite objections from the citizens to felling of trees and suggest ways to save them. It should submit a report by January 27, the judges said, adjourning the hearing to January 29.

The panel will have two experts, Dr Digamber Mokat and Dr Sandeep Jadhav, botany professors from the Pune University.

Rapping the Nashik Municipal Corporation for not setting up the tree authority, judges said it was necessary for preservation of trees and enhancement of green cover.

The committee should “endeavour to give suggestions for saving a substantial number of trees”, the court said.

V A Gangal, NMC’s lawyer, argued that some of the objections were ‘prototype’ (modelled on a single draft). The High Court said that certain objections were similarly worded, but it was no reason to permit felling of so many trees.

Advocate S A Gorwadkar, appointed in the case to assist the court, said that students of an architecture college had submitted a plan to NMC on how tree-cutting can be avoided. The HC asked the committee to consider this plan too.

Earlier, the court had directed the chief conservator of forests to consider the objections, however he delegated it to assistant conservator of forests. An irked court asked him to file an affidavit explaining this.

The NMC counsel argued that it has to widen the roads as lakhs of devotees will be thronging the city in 2015. It was ready to plant three trees for every single felled tree, he said.

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