Supreme Court Directs Assam Govt to Maintain Status Quo at Doloo Tea Estate for Proposed Airport

Supreme Court halts changes at Doloo Tea Estate amid Greenfield airport dispute, questions Assam Govt over environmental impact assessment.

The Supreme Court on Monday issued a directive to the Assam government, instructing them to maintain the status quo at the Doloo tea estate in the Cachar district. This estate is the proposed site for a Greenfield airport. The bench, led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud along with Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, raised concerns regarding the state government's actions of clearing shrubs in the tea garden without an environment impact assessment (EIA) report.

Moreover, the apex court also served notices to various entities, including the Centre, Ministry of Environment and Forests, and the Assam government, in response to a plea filed by Tapas Guha and others. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing the petitioners, argued that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had erred in its decision. He emphasized that environmental clearance is imperative for the grant of site clearance and in-principle approvals, contrary to the NGT's ruling on January 25.

The NGT had dismissed the plea filed by Guha and others, citing the absence of an environmental impact assessment report and the lack of environmental clearance for the proposed airport. Despite the plea's reference to the Government of India's notification dated May 16, 2008, which mandates environmental clearance for site clearance and in-principle approvals, the NGT considered it non-mandatory for the purpose of an EIA assessment study.

The plea filed in the NGT aimed to halt further actions related to the construction of the Greenfield Airport at Doloo Tea Estate until a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is conducted. The petition sought the restoration of the Doloo Tea Estate to its original condition as of May 12, 2022. This involved replanting uprooted tea bushes, restoring felled shade trees, and rectifying the damage inflicted on the landscape and ecosystem.

In light of these developments, the Supreme Court's intervention underscores the significance of adhering to environmental protocols and conducting thorough assessments before embarking on large-scale projects such as airport construction. The court's decision to maintain the status quo reflects its commitment to ensuring environmental sustainability and safeguarding the interests of affected communities.