The court was hearing a PIL filed by Jayanti Das (60), a Cuttack based social activist, against the felling of trees for the Rs 549.41 crore project.
The government had filed a counter-affidavit stating that the divisional forest officer (DFO) of city forest division, Bhubaneswar, had accorded permission for the conversion and disposal of 870 trees for the project subject to the condition that the firm handling the project would plant 8,700 trees in the available place or deposit Rs 68.70 lakh as per plantation norms, 2021. The concerned authorities had opted to deposit the money.
Countering it, petitioner’s counsel Bijaya Kumar Ragada had pointed out that though the cost of plantation was estimated, the cost of the trees felled had not been evaluated. Taking note of it, the high court had on September 9 directed the government to constitute an expert body to evaluate the cost of the 870 trees felled.
When the PIL was taken up on Thursday, the high court was informed that the expert body has been constituted. However, the deputy director estates sought two months’ time to complete the inquiry and evaluate the cost of trees felled.
The two-judge bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice M S Raman allowed the plea and posted the matter to February 22 for hearing along with the report of the expert body.
The bench also expected the state government to explain if there is any set of guidelines followed by the DFO for granting permission for cutting trees for the project.
The government in an affidavit filed earlier had stated that Odisha Bridge Construction Corporation (OBCC), the nodal agency for the construction of the project, has already deposited Rs 68.70 lakh with the DFO for the plantation work.
According to the affidavit, the MLA colony project includes construction of 195 Type VI and 105 Type VII quarters over 17.71 acres at Bhouma Nagar (Unit IV) at a cost of Rs 274.41 crore and Rs 275 crore, respectively.