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Ministry’s 360°

In yet another giddying stance, the central Ministry of Environment and Forests on Wednesday told a Supreme Court panel probing suspected illegalities at Noida's Bhim Rao Ambedkar Park, that the Rs. 685 crore-project will have an adverse impact upon the Okhla Bird Park and Wild Life Sanctuary and surrounding ecosystems.

delhi Updated: Sep 03, 2009 00:48 IST
Abhishek Sharan

What does a u-turn over a u-turn over a u-turn constitute?

In yet another giddying stance, the central Ministry of Environment and Forests on Wednesday told a Supreme Court panel probing suspected illegalities at Noida's Bhim Rao Ambedkar Park, that the Rs. 685 crore-project will have an adverse impact upon the Okhla Bird Park and Wild Life Sanctuary and surrounding ecosystems.

The Ministry's Wednesday affidavit was a complete turnaround from its earlier response dated August 22/24 that had inexplicably given a clean chit to the project saying, "The project's construction work does not seem to violate any Act/Law… it did not attract provisions of the EIA notification or the Forest (Conservation) Act."

Today's affidavit also drew the panel's attention an "issue of grave concern."

"The UP government appears to be taking advantage of its own omission. The state government has not notified the area around the Okhla bird sanctuary as an Eco-Sensitive Zone as was required of it…since 4 years," read the affidavit, a copy of which is with HT.

The Ministry's Wednesday affidavit, while apparently rectifying its August 22 affidavit, attempted to manouevre a tightrope walk.

It submitted the July 10 findings of the ministry's inspection team and the July 13 report ---containing satellite imageries of the park's site till just before the beginning of the construction work there---of the Dehradun-based Forest Survey of India which established the project's suspected illegalities under the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980(FCA).

Yet, the affidavit stopped short of stating that the project indeed violated the two key central environmental laws in so many words.

It stated the ministry's "August 22" affidavit had classified the project's site as a non-forest, contrary to the inspection team's report and the FSI report as pointed by HT last Thursday, based "on the information submitted by the state government" but did not clarify why.

The affidavit merely laid out before the panel the facts on the project's suspected illegalities borne out by its findings while also mentioning the contrary versions of state government and requests it to "consider…and to draw appropriate inference from the same."