Build airport away from Taj, SC tells the Center

NEW DELHI: To protect the Taj Mahal Due to the pollution that would arise from the increase in air traffic facilitated by the proposed expansion of the Agra airport, the Supreme Court said Wednesday that the Center should plan a larger airport away from Agra and transport passengers to the heritage city on more excellent trains like the Palace on Wheels.

A bank of Supreme Court President SA Bobde and Judges BR Gavai and Surya Kant seemed to agree with the objection of environmental lawyer MC Mehta to the expansion of the Agra airport, which he said would increase the number of airplanes leading to a larger contamination. However, when appearing before the Airports Authority of India, the main defender Ajit Sinha said he wanted to build an additional terminal to provide better facilities for passengers.

While he said prima facie saw no reason not to grant permission for the construction of an additional terminal, the bank said: “It can be difficult to allow an increase in air traffic. Therefore, we consider it appropriate to order the Union government to consider an alternative site in such an anticipated increase in traffic from which the aircraft could operate ”.

Additional solicitor general A S Nadkarni said the Center would request the court to consider increasing air traffic only after conducting a study. Nearly seven million tourists, including a million foreigners, visited the Taj Mahal in 2018-19.

The bank said: We are informed that the railways can provide more excellent trains such as the Palace on wheels and that such trains could be used to transport passengers from the new airfield to the Taj Trapeze Zone (TTZ), Agra. The Union government will also consider involving the railways to solve the problems of the anticipated increase in tourists and take into account the fact that the interest of contaminating the area will not serve anyone, with consequent damage to people and heritage monuments .

He said he would consider interim prayer to prevent the Center from allowing an increase in air traffic to Agra after the Union government presented its report in January at the end of the study.

Senior advocate Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation Ltd, sought permission for starting Metro services within Agra. The bench referred the plea for examination to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), which will look into its impact on the environment and the Taj Mahal. The SC asked the CEC to submit its report in four weeks.