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Bhadra Sinha, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 17, 2008
The Supreme Court has permitted Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Gas Transportation Infrastructure (RGIT) to lay down a gas pipeline through the Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Maharasthra. Clearing the decks for the Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) subsidiary, a bench headed by Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan asked the company to deposit 5 per cent of the project cost with the Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority's (CAMPA) Compensatory Afforestation Fund that has been created for realising the net present value (NPV) of diverted forestland.

The court specified that no forestland in the sanctuary would be used for setting up the project and that only the pipeline would be put underground. The sanction came after the court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) cleared the project. CEC studies the environmental and ecological impact of all the projects that need to be implemented in the country's forest areas.

Out of the Rs. 11,500-crore project for a 940-km pipeline, 83.9 km would be inside the sanctuary. The cost of laying the pipeline in the sanctuary would be Rs. 520 crore, of which 5 per cent or Rs. 26 crore would be given to the fund. The fund would be spent for afforestation and educating people on the Great Indian Bustard, an endangered bird

Reliance advocate Mukul Rohtagi said the company would lay a pipeline that would cover an area of 241.18 hectare in the sanctuary. Reliance Gas Transportation Infrastructure claims that transportation of natural gas and hydrocarbon was most economical, safe and environment-friendly and would not cause any emissions and congestion on the roads.