Residents and conservationists were fighting for years to save a 100-acre portion of the 300-acre Jahangirpuri marshland from housing projects. They, however, did not realise that the government too had set its eyes on it.
The Delhi government has passed an order clearing the entire marshland for residential use, under the Draft Zonal Plan of the Master Plan 2021. The draft zonal plans are open to public objections and critique till the end of this month.
This means, in the near future, the place would be legally available for building a concrete jungle in the name of “residential use”.
Chief Secretary Rakesh Mehta signed the order terming the marshlands — not just the contentious 100 acres owned by the PWD and Delhi Police, but even the remaining 200 acres of pristine wetland owned by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) — as “not a water body”.
The six-page order, of which HT has a copy, has views of all the land-owning agencies about the marshland that the chief secretary has taken. Every department has gone to great lengths to prove that the place cannot be termed as a water body.
Residents are furious. “We will challenge this in court. They kept discussing the controversial 100 acres for years but all of a sudden, hurriedly cleared the whole place for development. This is clear deception,” said G.K. Sehgal of the local Save the Marshes movement.
Interestingly, the DJB in its submission acknowledged that at its behest, Indian Natural Trust for Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had found out in 2002 that the place has a potential to supply 6-8 million gallons of water per day. But at the same time, it said INTACH had indicated “an additional source of raw water in the marshland sometimes termed as water body”.
Moreover, Irrigation and Flood Control department has explained how it has built storm-water lines around the marshland so that rainwater does not accumulate there. It has termed the water-holding nature of the marshland and its catchment area as “a water-logging problem”. HT had on Monday carried a report showing how authorities have on other years tried to stifle the marshland by preventing rainwater from accumulating in it.
Environmentalist Vinod Kumar Jain, who is the main petitioner in the high court in the case said, with one stroke of deception, the government has ended years of fight. “In 2002, a survey committee appointed by the high court, of which the DJB was a part, had submitted 508 water bodies in Delhi and this marshland was in it. Now suddenly it is not a water body?”