Wheel Being Reinvented Once Again : HC stays Navy’s ELF radar project

Wheel Being Reinvented Once Again : HC stays Navy’s ELF radar project


Wheel Being Reinvented Once Again : HC stays Navy’s ELF radar project



The Forest Act 1996 was made probably in complete ignorance of certain other Acts which governs the utilization of Forest Areas by Defence Forces. It led to a major problem in defence training at both basic and advanced levels thereby affecting our overall preparedness.

The case finally went to the supreme court in the year 2005 based on the initiative taken by two officers Colonel B B Parida and Colonel Awadhesh Kumar then posted at the Army HQ. The Assistant Solicitor General Vikas Singh on going through the notings was so  highly impressed that he couldnot help but compliment both Colonel Parida and Colonel Awadhesh Kumar .  It was heard by a bench headed by the then Chief Justice with Mr Harish Salve as the amicus curie.

For the first part of the case, immediate judgement was given in favour of the Armed Forces. The judges were ready to give judgement for the second part also but then based on advice of Mr Salve, decided to constitute an Expert Committee headed by a retired Judge with environmental experts and few others as members.

A presentation was then done by the Army team comprising the two officers  col Parida and Col Awadhesh Kumar and headed by Brigadier JS Dhillon to the expert Committee at the School of Environmental Studies in Delhi University. Wherein it was proved beyond doubt with facts figures and photographs that Armed Forces were the biggest protectors of Indian Forest wealth and had a superb record of conservation compared to any State Forest Department. In addition a few members were taken on ground to see the Conservation work done by the Forces in various Cantonments and the National Field Firing Ranges of the Army.

So in the final verdict Army was given clearance to carry out their activities in notified field firing ranges etc provided they kept on with their conservation work. Firstly as far as possible, Army cuts no trees while carryout any training or project.

However if it becomes inevitable and trees have to be cut then at once 10 times the number are not only planted but even survival is monitored and ensured. Trees planted by Army have 95 % survival rate compared to less than 30 % of most of the State Forest Departments.

After the first phase  verdict , An Action Plan for over 100 Field Firing Ranges in the country was then prepared by Colonel Parida and Colonel Awadhesh Kumar and was duly approved by the COAS . Nearly 40% of the ranges were to be handed back to respective States in a phased manner .

So now the news saying that, Telangana High Court has Made it clear to the state, centre and the Indian Navy that they cannot cut a single tree till they filed their counters on what they are proposing to do with the fragile ecosystem at Damagundam forest near Vikarabad in Ranga Reddy district seems to be very surprising. The Telangana high court has ordered status quo on the Navy’s Extremely Low Frequency (ELF) Radar project proposed to be set up in Damagundum reserve forest area.

The project is being set up by the Eastern Naval Command. The bench of Chief Justice Raghavendra Singh Chauhan and Justice A Abhishek Reddy wondered as to how the forest department could allow construction of a low-frequency radar in a forest area while hearing a PIL filed by Damagundam Forest Protection joint action committee.

Agreeing with the apprehensions expressed by S Spandana Reddy, the counsel for the petitioner, the bench directed the authorities to make sure that not a single tree is cut in the area till further orders. CJ also asked the petitioner to make the revenue department as a respondent to the case since it was they who allotted land to the project.

“We understand the defence of the country is crucial and is an important aspect, but the environment is also our concern,” the Chief Justice said. Everyone knows that low frequency affects the wildlife, the flora and fauna and the forest ecology adversely, he said. It is surprising that the forest department agreed to the idea of ELF Radar in the area without Navy obtaining environment clearance, the CJ said.

Assistant solicitor general N Rajeswara Rao urged the bench to restrict the status quo for a few days, but the bench has made it clear that it will remain there till the centre and other authorities file their counters. The case was adjourned to four weeks.