SC allows for new terminal near Taj Mahal, suggest Palace on Wheels option

The apex court also asked the Centre to consider involving the railways to solve the problems of anticipated higher tourist numbers. PTI

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that increase in air traffic posses a direct threat to the environment and heritage monuments, and luxury train "Palace on Wheels" could be considered as an alternative to ferry tourists to Agra.

The top court also allowed construction of an additional terminal at the airport near the Taj Mahal with a rider that it will not allow an increase in air traffic.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde said: "We are informed that the railways can provide more excellent trains like the 'Palace on Wheels' and such trains could be deployed to transport passengers from the new air field to the Taj Trapezium Zone, Agra."

The apex court also asked the Centre to consider involving the railways to solve the problems of anticipated higher tourist numbers and bear in mind the fact that it will serve nobody's interest to have the area polluted with a resultant damage to people and the heritage monuments. "The report shall be submitted within a period of three months," it said.

The court reiterated that it seems difficult to permit an increase in air traffic and instead the Centre should consider an alternative site, to meet the anticipated increase in traffic, for operation of aircraft. The court observed increase in air traffic is hazardous for the environment, especially in the area having world heritage sites including Taj Mahal.

Environmentalist lawyer M.C. Mehta, who opposed the airport project, told the court that if the authorities propose to allow an increase in air traffic, increase the number of aircraft that take off and land from this site, then it will be hazardous to the environment.

The bench observed that it will consider Centre's plea increasing air traffic after it files its response by January 2020. The apex court was informed the upcoming airport in Jewar in Greater Noida, in the vicinity of the capital, will prove effective in handling the increase in the influx of tourists.

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