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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

Agra airport: SC not against terminal but opposes rise in traffic

india Updated: Dec 05, 2019 01:14 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

An increase in air traffic at the Agra airport will not be allowed if it results in pollution and consequent damage to heritage monuments in the Taj Trapezium Zone, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday, directing the central government to consider alternative options to deal with a rise in tourist traffic to the city.

A bench headed by chief justice SA Bobde and comprising justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant heard a plea by the Airports Authority of India seeking permission to build an additional terminal at the Agra airport.

The court said that while it is not opposed to granting permission to build a new terminal, it is not in favour of granting permission to increase air traffic, which could aggravate pollution and cause damage to heritage monuments. The submissions of environmentalist MC Mehta on the matter found the favour of the court.

“Shri M.C. Mehta, appearing in person, however, states that if the authorities propose to allow an increase in air traffic i.e. to say if they propose to increase the number of aircraft that take off and land from this site, then it will be hazardous to the environment. Prima facie, we consider this objection to be a sound objection and we do not propose to allow an increase in air traffic on this air field”, the court said in its order.

Additional solicitor general Atmaram Nadkarni, appearing for the central government, told the court that the government was proposing to undertake a study to ascertain the number of tourists who utilize the airport and the anticipatory increase in the number of such tourists over the years. Nadkarni said that the government will seek permission to increase air traffic after conducting such a study.

The court, however, made it clear that it would be difficult to grant permission to increase air traffic and the appropriate way forward for the central government would be to consider an alternative site to operate additional aircraft.

The court also suggested involving the railways to deal with an increase in tourists to Agra while insisting that polluting the area and damaging the heritage monuments “will serve nobody’s interest”.

“We are informed that the Railways can provide more excellent trains like the Palace on Wheels and such trains could have been employed to transport passengers from the new air field to the TTZ, Agra. The Union of India will also consider involving the Railways to solve the problems of anticipation of tourists and bear in mind the fact that it will serve nobody’s interest to have the area polluted with a resultant damage to the people and the heritage monuments,” the court said.

The Central government has to conduct a study and submit its report within three months. The interim prayer for restraining the central government from allowing increase in air traffic will be considered after the centre files its response by January next year.

The Supreme Court is hearing a petition filed by environmental lawyer Mehta seeking steps to protect the Taj Mahal from the effects of pollution. The court had delivered a judgment on December 30, 1996 banning the use of coal/coke in industries falling within the area known as Taj Trapezium Zone. The area is spread over 10,400 sq. km and has many protected monuments including the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri.