The court was hearing a plea challenging cutting of heritage trees for an over-bridge in West Bengal

Deforestation is so rapid that before anyone knows everything will be lost, Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde said on Tuesday, voicing concern over the loss of green cover.

A three-judge Bench, led by the the Chief Justice Bobde, was hearing a petition challenging the cutting of heritage trees in West Bengal to create space for an over-bridge in an accident-prone area of a highway.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, for the petitioner, agreed that in another 50 years, the effects of climate change might take a turn for the worse.

‘Greed and profit’

Chief Justice Bobde did not hold back while condemning humanity’s tendency to abuse natural resources for greed and profit.

“I understand you don’t have the brains to build new ones [water conservation systems], but you are also destroying what is there,” said Justice Bobde.

The court said the green cover must be preserved.

“People are not willing to explore alternatives. There could be a way to create a path without cutting trees, though it might be a little more expensive,” Chief Justice Bobde said with the reference to the over-bridge project.

A tree’s value

The Bench even considered taking on board economists and environmentalists to estimate the value of a tree, factoring in the value of the quantum of oxygen it emits in its lifetime.

“When you cut a heritage tree, imagine the value of the oxygen the tree produced all these years. Compare it with how much you would have to pay for the equivalent amount of oxygen if you have to buy it from somewhere else,” Chief Justice Bobde had observed at an earlier hearing.

Mr. Bhushan had suggested a change in the alignment of the project or even an underbridge.

Senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, for West Bengal, had said the State had discussed the issue for 18 months before deciding on cutting as few trees as possible.

Source: February 18, 2020, The Hindu