Delhi prone to dis­as­ters

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE -

taken over by land sharks who have been con­struct­ing and sell­ing farm­houses and bun­ga­lows for pre­mium prices of ₹ 50 lakh to over a few crores. Such prop­er­ties are also ad­ver­tised of­ten as houses with a river­front view.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists at­tribute the present sit­u­a­tion to an in­or­di­nate de­lay on the part of the en­vi­ron­ment min­istry in no­ti­fy­ing the River Reg­u­la­tion Zone (RRZ) that is to be mod­elled on the lines of the Coastal Reg­u­la­tion Zone under the En­vi­ron­ment Pro­tec­tion Act 1986.

Clar­i­fy­ing the gov­ern­ment’s stand, Ashok Lavasa, sec­re­tary, min­istry of en­vi­ron­ment, forests and cli­mate change, says con­sul­ta­tions are go­ing on with the states. The pur­pose of the River Reg­u­la­tion Zone is to de­fine the area in­cluded in the reg­u­la­tory zone and pro­vide pro­tec­tion to the flood plains and reg­u­late ac­tiv­i­ties that can be per­mit­ted therein. “This is the first reg­u­la­tion of its kind in the coun­try and we are go­ing through a con­sul­ta­tive process,” he adds.

Brij Gopal, for­mer pro­fes­sor of JNU who con­cep­tu­alised the RRZ in 2001 and has been a mem­ber of all ex­pert groups set up by the min­istry to for­mu­late guide­lines for man­age­ment of river flood­plains through the river reg­u­la­tion zone, says, “The ba­sis of RRZ is that the rivers need cer­tain space to carry their large sea­sonal flows and this space on ei­ther side of the river chan­nels – called flood­plains – has many im­por­tant func­tions. Th­ese in­clude ground­wa­ter recharge, hold­ing flood­wa­ters and al­low­ing the de­vel­op­ment of fer­tile soils by re­plen­ish­ment of nu­tri­ents, sup­port­ing fish, and all other biodiversity, and im­prove­ment of wa­ter qual­ity in the river. Hence, all de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties in the flood­plains - on ei­ther side of the rivers - should be reg­u­lated.”

Aflood­plain, to quote rivers ex­pert, D Mus­sared, is as im­por­tant to rivers as bark is to trees. Just as the sap flows through the out­er­most ring of a tree, not through its cen­tre, the lifeblood of a river ebbs and flows on its flood­plains. HT Es­tates, caught up with Manoj Misra, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and con­venor of the Ya­muna Jiye Ab­hiyaan.

What ac­cord­ing to you is the im­pact of com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion and en­croach­ments on river flood­plains?

There are two types of en­croach­ments – state spon­sored such as the re­cently-con­cluded World Cul­ture Fes­ti­val or state sup­ported such as the con­struc­tion of the Ak­shard­ham Tem­ple. The sec­ond type is oc­cu­pa­tion or en­croach­ment of the flood­plain by peo­ple by de­fault such as in Ra­jiv Na­gar, Zakir Na­gar, Batla House etc. In Greater Noida, there are farm­houses in the ac­tive flood­plain. Such “mis­ad­ven­tures” are tak­ing place be­cause MoEF has de­faulted on no­ti­fy­ing the RRZ no­ti­fi­ca­tion.

How ef­fec­tive is the Master Plan in pro­tect­ing the rivers and other wa­ter bod­ies in a city?

As far as the master plans are con­cerned, th­ese are of­ten weak doc­u­ments as they can be amended by way of a pub­lic no­ti­fi­ca­tion. Th­ese doc­u­ments have the lib­erty to change land use and its pro­vi­sions pro­vide very lit­tle se­cu­rity. There needs to be a statu­tory reg­u­la­tory regime in place which should be far more struc­tured than a master plan.

Rapid ur­ban­i­sa­tion has taken place along rivers all over the world, es­pe­cially in Europe. Should we fol­low that model? Un­like rivers in Europe, ours are mon­soonal rivers. The prob­lem Euro­pean rivers face is that of pol­lu­tion and not wa­ter flow. Rapid ur­ban­i­sa­tion along the river was a folly which they have now re­alised.


(L) Flooding in ar­eas close to Mayur Vi­har dur­ing the 2010 mon­soon sea­son. (R) Farm­houses in Noida along the Ya­muna.

Manoj Misra, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and con­venor of the Ya­muna Jiye Ab­hiyaan.

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