One hundred and twenty-three acres of green belt lying in the heart of south Delhi is going to be turned into a concrete mass of bungalows for ministers and bureaucrats. For you and me, it means: collapse of the city’s most vital “green lung” after the Ridge, the demise of two Lodhi Gardens (size-wise), and scores of “national birds” losing their habitat in the national capital.
National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC) has recently acquired the huge stretch — running between RK Puram Sector 13, Netaji Nagar area near Chanakyapuri and Moti Bagh — from the government.
“There will be 492 houses for senior bureaucrats at a cost of Rs 611 crore,” said V.K. Rastogi, a general manager at NBCC. Three acres have been auctioned to a Mumbai-based company, which will build hotels and service apartments. There will be 14 Type VIII, 102 Type VII and 376 Type VI houses for government bigwigs.
It may not be a notified forest, but in terms of the volume of greenery within the 123 acres, the stretch has always been identical to the Ridge, say residents. The stretch has various types of trees, the majority being the keekar. It is also a natural habitat for peacocks.
“Scores of peacocks wander around in these woods. This place is greener than any park or garden the city has,” said Arunima Kukareja, resident of Aradhana Apartments adjoining the stretch.
Work is going on fast. After all, it’s easier to “deforest” than to “forest.” The place is teeming with construction workers, a large patch has already been cleared and dredging machines are working non-stop. The deadline: 31 months.
The forest department has woken up to this atrocity. A team visited the site. So far the developers have sought permission to cut down only 180 trees, which the department feels is an underplayed figure. “We’ve asked them to send a list of trees they want to fell,” said an officer.
The NBCC is sticking to its plan. “It was never a forest. The project has all the necessary environmental clearances,” said Rastogi.