The Supreme Court on Friday allowed the Uttar Pradesh government and authorities concerned to grant environmental clearances (ECs) for projects such as drinking water supply, sewerage and drainage system at the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ). The TTZ is an area of about 10,400 sq km spread over the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. Environmentalist M.C. Mehta had moved the apex court seeking protection to heritage monuments in this area.
In March last year, the apex court ordered status quo in connection with environmental clearances to the slew of projects in TTZ, observing that the vision document should be prepared before granting ECs. This document, to be filed by the UP government, was supposed to address issues on protection and preservation of the Taj Mahal and the surrounding environment.
A bench, headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde and comprising Justices B.R. Gavai and Surya Kant, observed that the state government has complied with its direction on the vision document in TTZ, therefore, it is appropriate to modify its earlier order.
The top court, in its order, said that the amenities being crucial for securing basic living conditions of TTZ's residents, therefore there need not be any impediment for granting necessary clearances for the same. "We are conscious of the fact that citizens have a fundamental right to such essential amenities; and how counter-intuitively, not allowing construction of such basic infrastructure can itself create new polluting waste and threaten the environment," it observed.
However, the apex court noted that there will be "an embargo on granting clearances to and/or shifting of any heavy industry until a final decision is taken on the vision document".
"As regards permission for establishing non-polluting industrial units, it appears to us that only those small, micro and macro-level industries which are both non-polluting and eco-friendly and which have the necessary clearances from all statutory authorities as well as concurrence of the Central Empowerment Committee and NEERI, can be set up within the notified industrial area," it said.
The authorities had earlier told the apex court "no construction zone" was declared in a 500-metre radius area of the Taj, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.