An or­der of chaos

Na­tional Green Tri­bunal's de­ci­sion to de­clare an area of 10 km ra­dius around Okhla Bird Sanc­tu­ary as eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive has put the future of 74,000 home buy­ers in NCR at stake


SIT­TING IN his dingy shop in sec­tor-5, Noida, In­dresh Gupta is typ­ing a let­ter ad­dressed to Union home min­is­ter Ra­j­nath Singh. “This or­der has jeop­ar­dised the future of 74,000 peo­ple,” he says. Gupta is foun­der­mem­ber of Noida Ex­ten­sion Flat Own­ers’ Wel­fare As­so­ci­a­tion (ne­fowa) and the room at­tached to his shop is the of­fice of the as­so­ci­a­tion. The or­der he is re­fer­ring to was passed by the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (ngt) on May 30.It de­clared a 10 km ra­dius around Okhla Bird Sanc­tu­ary in the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion an eco­log­i­cally sen­si­tive zone (esz) and out­lawed any con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity in the area. Gupta and a few other mem­bers of the as­so­ci­a­tion have been try­ing to get the newly elected Bharatiya Janata Party-led Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance gov­ern­ment at the Cen­tre to in­ter­vene in the case.

The tri­bunal’s de­ci­sion has come as a shock to house own­ers as well as builders who will now re­quire clear­ance from the Na­tional Board of Wildlife to con­tinue con­struc­tion around the sanc­tu­ary, which was cre­ated af­ter a bar­rage was built on the Ya­muna in 1989.

“Prac­ti­cally, the 10-km ra­dius esz means a com­plete ban on new con­struc­tion in ar­eas as far as the In­dia Gate in the north, sec­tor 62 A (bor­der­ing Ghazi­abad in Ut­tar Pradesh in the east) and Greater Kailash-2 in south­west Delhi,” stated se­nior coun­sel Ab­hishek Manu Singhvi who rep­re­sents Jaypee Group in the tri­bunal.

The or­der by the ngt Bench, headed by jus­tice P Jyoth­imani, was passed on a pe­ti­tion filed by Noida-based lawyer Amit Ku­mar.The lawyer had asked the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and Forests (moef ) in 2013 to

no­tify an esz around the sanc­tu­ary that spans 3 sq km and at­tracts over 330 bird species from places as far as Siberia. Th­ese in­clude sev­eral en­dan­gered birds. The num­ber of avian visi­tors has, how­ever, dwin­dled over the past decade be­cause of con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties and pol­lu­tion in the Ya­muna. How­ever, it will not be cor­rect to blame the tri­bunal for the esz de­ci­sion. In Oc­to­ber 2013, the same Bench had can­celled the en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance of 49 real es­tate pro­jects in and around Noida Ex­ten­sion af­ter it was re­vealed by Ku­mar that en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance were se­cured by builders on false grounds. They had claimed that there were no sanc­tu­ar­ies within 15 km ra­dius of the pro­jects. But some of the pro­jects are only 2-4 km from the sanc­tu­ary, con­sid­ered the only breed­ing ground in the coun­try for the bris­tled grass­bird.

It is also ev­i­dent that the states and the Union gov­ern­ment are at fault for ac­cept­ing builders’ claims with­out ver­i­fi­ca­tion. “Most of the builders in Noida not only vi­o­late en­vi­ron­men­tal laws, but flout floor area re­stric­tions and ground­wa­ter norms,” states Ku­mar.

Jaypee Group main­tains that not all builders have flouted laws. “There were de­lays in the en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance. How­ever, putting a com­plete ban on the con­struc­tion of new apart­ments is some­thing that will im­pact in­vest­ments run­ning into thou­sands of crores of ru­pees,” says a spokesper­son.

More than the builders, the or­der spells bad news for flat own­ers who have in­vested in over 50 pro­jects in Noida. Ac­cord­ing to ne­fowa, till June 2013 buy­ers had in­vested up to 1,000 crore in th­ese prop­er­ties which

` were pro­posed to be ready in the next 14 months but are now stuck in a le­gal wran­gle. When Jaypee Group ap­proached the Supreme Court on June 14 for a de­ci­sion on

In Oc­to­ber 2013, the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal can­celled en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance of 49 real es­tate pro­jects in and around

Noida Ex­ten­sion af­ter it emerged that builders had taken the clear­ances on false grounds

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