The central environment and forests ministry has refused Uttar Pradesh permission to build the 148-km-long Upper Ganga Canal Expressway, contending that the project would result in massive deforestation and threaten many rare wildlife species.
The decision, following an inspection ordered by the conservator of forests (central zone) who had returned the proposal as beyond his power to approve and asked for it to be cleared by the central ministry, also noted that there were already two roads on the canal's left bank, which were being upgraded.
'There are already two roads which are connecting Ghaziabad, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar with Uttarakhand via NH (national highway) 58 and Kanwar Marg on the left bank of Upper Ganges Canal. These two roads are also under improvement by widening of the roads. Once the widening is completed, the traffic would be regularised and as such another road/expressway may not be required,' the inspection report of the chief conservator of forest (central zone) said.
'If the expressway is constructed, it would cause lot of damage to the vegetation all along the canal and would definitely disturb the habitat of wild life which are having natural abode all along the canal,' it added.
The ministry, in a letter to the state government, said that the construction of the expressway would lead to uprooting of around 100,000 trees in the stretch from Sanauta in Gautam Budh Nagar to Purkazi in Muzaffarnagar district which also comprises two rich protected forests and dense vegetation cover.
The report prepared by the ministry's regional office in Lucknow has also critically pointed out that the project is also bound to affect the habitat of some of the most endangered species like snakes, blue bulls, monitor lizards, porcupines, foxes, jackals, rabbits and rats.
The ministry has also criticized the state government for not taking environmental impact assessment for 'proper assessment of environment damage' caused, if the proposed work is being taken up.
In his report, Chief Conservator Azam Zaidi mentioned that to subvert the process of getting approval from central government, the state government submitted the proposal in five parts so that the losses of trees and other environmental properties could be reflected at the minimum and the project come in preview of regional office for clearance without routing it through New Delhi.