The High Court of Sikkim has stayed the felling of any more trees for the Gangtok Smart City Project.
In orders passed on 29 June, a High Court Bench comprising of Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai and Justice Bhaskar Raj Pradhan, ordered the State Government not to chop down any more trees “whatsoever” either at Zero Point Junction, Development Area Junction or High Court Junction [where many trees have already been felled], or in any of the remaining six areas marked out for similar felling as part of the smart city project. The High Court had taken up the matter as a Public Interest Litigation on 23 June based on a letter petition received from a Gangtok resident.
On Monday, the Advocate General submitted to the Court that trees had to be cut down to develop Gangtok into a smart city in terms of the year 2015 Smart City Mission of the Minister of Urban Development.
The Court observed that the response filed by the agencies involved in the felling of trees was not detailed enough and has now sought all relevant files and documents pertaining to the felling of 121 trees at Zero Point Junction, Development Area Junction and High Court Junction.
It has also sought all official records of the proposal to cut down trees at Hospital Dara Junction, Ganju Lama Dwar Junction. Smoke Test Junction, Amdo Golai Junction, Sikkim Jewels Junction and CRH Junction.
The High Court also wants the State Government to furnish all relevant documents pertaining ti the Green Belt areas in Gangtok and rules regarding felling of trees and explain how trees were felled in the Green Belt Area.
And while the departments collect and file these and more details to the court, no more trees can be felled for the Smart City project until further orders.
In their order, the Justices also put on record that “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising on the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. It also encompasses social and economic progress along with climate protection.”
The next hearing on the case is scheduled for 17 July, 2020.