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'Don't Chop 38,000 Trees To Construct New J&K HC Complex in Raika Forest'

'As a resident of Jammu, this would turn disastrous for the environment of the city.'

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Video Producer: Maaz Hasan
Video Editor: Prajjwal Kumar
Cameraperson: Karthik Jandial

Despite several warnings by environmentalists and climate experts, the Jammu & Kashmir High Court's Jammu complex is set to shift from Janipur to Raika in Jammu City, for which an estimated 38,000 trees would be chopped.

As a resident of Jammu, this would be disastrous for the city's environment. Since the proposal was passed around 2.5 years ago, we have been running the ‘Save Raika Forest’ campaign because there is a need to protect the green lungs of Jammu.

'As a resident of Jammu, this would turn disastrous for the environment of the city.'

Raika forest is spread over an area of 19 sq km to the east of Jammu.

(Photo credit: Anmol Ohri)

The Raika-Bahu forest is spread over an area of 19 sq km to the east of Jammu, where 40 Hectares of forest land is approved for the construction of a new court complex estimated to cost around 938 crores.
'As a resident of Jammu, this would turn disastrous for the environment of the city.'

Locals protest the construction of the new high court complex in Raika forest.

(Photo credit: Anmol Ohri)

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Environmentalist's Warning

Roopchand Makhnotra, an environmentalist in Jammu who has been working for the cause for over 20 years, warned me about the city's future if we go ahead with destroying the region's biodiversity.

"The biodiversity of the Kandi belt is present at Raika, which includes peacocks, grey francolins, leopards, etc. All of these creatures would be homeless. On the one hand, India at the UN talked about carbon neutrality and increasing green cover while on the ground, we are reducing green cover and destroying biodiversity."
Roopchand Makhnotra, Environmentalist
'As a resident of Jammu, this would turn disastrous for the environment of the city.'

Present J&K High Court building in Janipur, Jammu.

(Photo credit: Anmol Ohri)

Highlighting that we are not learning from the past, Makhnotra told me, "Look at the Pakistan flood, you forgot the disaster at Kedarnath and Srinagar. All these things indicate the anger of nature when we play with it, and it's difficult to escape from it."

Calling the government's anti-nature and anti-human agendas, Makhnotra emphasised the need to fight for the environment.

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Lawyers Are Protesting

On the other hand, the lawyers at the High Court are also protesting against the shift of the court complex. 

"It's true that the current High Court building is insufficient for the lawyers, but we have space here to increase the capacity. We should develop the 600 Kanal area at Janipur (in Jammu). We should develop as per the requirement over here only. New blocks can be prepared at Janipur."
H C Jalmeria, Lawyer

Another Lawyer, Arvind Bandral, whom I met to understand their issue, questioned the need to shift from Janipur to Raika when the current high court complex has been operational since 1994. 

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"It hasn't been long since the high court shifted to this building. It's a new safe, and secure building," said Arvind Bandral.

Chief Justice Of India Justice DY Chandrachud laid the foundation stone of the new court complex on 28 June.

"In previous bar associations, our presidents have protested against the issue, and the government had earlier assured us that the high court will not be shifted, and they promised to give a multi-storied building in Janipur. Construction work did start here, but then it was stopped, I don't know why."
Arvind Bandral, Lawyer
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'As a resident of Jammu, this would turn disastrous for the environment of the city.'

Letter to CJI on the construction of J&K's new court complex.

(Letter accessed by The Quint)

The residents of Raika and I have written a detailed letter to the Honourable Chief Justice of India to intervene. In the letter we have requested the CJI for urgent intervention to protect Raika Forest and the injustice surrounding the relocation of J&K High Court.

The Raika forest is home to over 150 species of trees and shrubs and several endangered species of birds and animals, we urged the Justice DY Chandrachud to for justice in the matter. We are not against any development, but we must understand that concretisation and deforestation would affect human lives.

(All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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