AGAINST NA­TURE AND MAN THE WAY OUT

In­ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of reg­u­la­tory pro­vi­sions have led to realty projects be­ing built on lake beds and near forests

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani

Over 30,000 buy­ers of apart­ments lo­cated near t he pro­tected Okhla Bird Sanc­tu­ary ( OBS) have been left high and dry fol­low­ing the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal’s order in April this year for­bid­ding the Noida Au­thor­ity from giv­ing com­ple­tion cer­tifi­cates to over 40 projects lo­cated within a 10-km ra­dius of the OBS. This has de­layed pos­ses­sion of the units.

The ques­tion is: who is to be blamed for the mess? The Ut­tar Pradesh gov­ern­ment had de­clared the wildlife habi­tat ‘pro­tected’ on May 8, 1990, un­der the In­dian Wildlife Pro­tec­tion Act. De­spite that the au­thor­ity went ahead and al­lot­ted land to builders in 2008. What was per­haps over­looked here was the ab­sence of a buf­fer zone. The Supreme Court had way back in 2006 di­rected states to de­fine their eco-sen­si­tive zones and said that such pro­tected ar­eas be of at least 10 km. It was only this year that UP sub­mit­ted its pro­posal for a 100- m ecosen­si­tive zone to the min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment and forests.

Un­for­tu­nately, this is not t he only case. I nef f ec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion of reg­u­la­tory pro­vi­sions have all along led to all sorts of il­le­gal prac­tices in the NCR with projects com­ing up on a lake bed and a nal­lah, both of which act as a nat­u­ral wa­ter reser­voir and a drainage sys­tem. De­vel­op­ers have al­legedly ac­quired land in and near for­est re­serves and even an am­mu­ni­tion de­pot. Even in ar­eas where the mas­ter plan has been no­ti­fied and which have been specif­i­cally ear­marked for re­cre­ational and pub­lic util­i­ties, the land use has been sur­rep­ti­tiously changed to res­i­den­tial and the land has been handed over to the builder. In one case, even the au­thor­ity con­cerned at­tempted to de­velop a golf course in an area marked as green in its mas­ter plan.

The en­vi­ron­ment is def­i­nitely im­pacted by un­clear poli­cies which are of­ten mis­used by builders. A de­vel­oper in Gur­gaon has built a mall on a 20 to 30 ft nal­lah (drain) meant to be a nat­u­ral wa­ter path that drained the up­stream wa­ter in the area – lead­ing to risk of flood­ing dur­ing the mon­soons. An­other de­vel­oper, again in the Mil­len­nium City, has built a res­i­den­tial com­plex on a lake bed - the Ghata – a sea­sonal reser­voir doc­u­mented in the Gazette of In­dia (1883). The wa­ter which col­lected here would ear­lier be used for recharg­ing ground wa­ter. In the ab­sence of an out­let, there is dan­ger of flood­ing in the base­ments of the apart­ments that have come up here.

Vandna Menon, an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, says that there is an im­por­tant ir­ri­ga­tion depart­ment rule re­lated to flood­ing. Wa­ter can­not be pumped out of a cer­tain ge­o­graph­i­cal area. So what hap­pens if wa­ter floods the base­ments of the new apart­ment blocks on the river bed or in the area around the nal­lah?

The mat­ter re­lated to the lake bed is com­pli­cated. Af­ter pri­vate real es­tate play­ers pur­chased the land, the town and coun­try plan­ning depart­ment of Haryana, while draw­ing up the Gur­gaonMane­sar Ur­ban Com­plex Mas­ter Plan 2021 (is­sued in 2007), did not un­der­take land suit­abil­ity anal­y­sis as re­quired un­der the re­gional plan 2021 (is­sued in 2005 by NCRPB). Nei­ther did the depart­ment iden­tify the Nat­u­ral Con­ser­va­tion Zone (NCZ) which was to in­clude ma­jor wa­ter bod­ies, forests, Araval­lis, recharge zone etc. In­stead, depart­ment of­fi­cials zoned the lake bed as a res­i­den­tial sec­tor, ig­nor­ing feed­back from the ir­ri­ga­tion depart­ment – which owned the bund (wall built near the lake to pre­vent flood­ing) - and protested against con­struc­tion in the sub­mer­gence area. Once the zon­ing was done, and third party li­cences is­sued in favour of the builder, who man­aged to get some kind of an en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance, there was a very short win­dow to chal­lenge the same. Sec­tor 5 Sec­tor 6 Sec­tor 7 Sec­tor 8 Sec­tor 9

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