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