SC asks environmentalist to respond to Centre's report on construction at Agra airport near Taj

New Delhi, Nov 22 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday asked petitioner environmentalist M C Mehta to respond to submission of the Centre that it was willing to grant environmental clearance to construction of new civil enclave at Agra airport near Taj Mahal.

A bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justice B R Gavai was hearing several interim applications filed in the pending PIL of Mehta and one of them pertained to construction of civil enclave falling under the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ), an 'eco-sensitive area' having four world heritage sites including Taj Mahal.

Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre and the Archeological Survey of India (ASI), said that the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has filed an affidavit in this regard and was willing to grant the environmental clearance to the project.

He said that as per the Environment Impact Report (EIA) there was no wild life sancturay near the prohect site and the MoEF could not grant the EC in view of the earlier apex court's order.

The law officer said that the project has been cleared and tenders have been invited for this.

The plea was opposed by Mehta, who had filed the PIL in way back in 1984 for protecting the Taj and the fragile eco-system surrounding it, and he proposed to file an affidavit in this regard.

'The flights are already landing there in Agra. What is your objection,' the bench said.

Meanwhile, senior lawyer Aishwary Bhati, appearing for the Uttar Pradesh government, said that the vision document on protecting Taj Mahal, which has been prepared by the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi, has been filed in the court.

The bench has now fixed various interim pleas on next Wednesday.

The TTZ is a 10,400 sq km area spread across the districts of Agra, Firozabad, Mathura, Hathras and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur district of Rajasthan.

The top court, which has been monitoring the development in the TTZ to protect the Taj, had earlier slammed the Centre, the Uttar Pradesh government and the TTZ authority for their failure to restore the pristine glory of the Taj Mahal. PTI SJK ABA SA