People living close to the Jahangirpuri marshland have been angry with the government for long. Their complaint was that the government was neglecting the area’s biggest green lung.
The latest news of two housing colony projects being cleared at the highest level has confirmed their worst fears.
“They want to stifle this water body and cash in on the real estate value,” said GK Sehgal, a resident of Adarsh Nagar, who has been driving a people-driven protest called ‘Save the Marshes’ movement for the past seven years. “The hungry sees live chicken and pictures roasted meat. Likewise, the government sees environmental assets and thinks of real estate value,” he jokes.
Members of 14 colonies like Mukherjee Nagar, Model Town and Adarsh Nagar have formed a coalition to conserve this water body.
Residents claimed that the authorities — be it the DJB, which owns the lands, or any other body — have been trying to choke the marshlands with boundary walls and “needless” storm-water drains. “These prevented the flow of rainwater to get to the marshes and started drying it up,” Sehgal says.
A reality check
HT did a reality check on Monday and found that it is one of Delhi’s least-known environmental gems. A wetland filled with thick vegetation of tall elephant grass and brimming with water, the Jahangirpuri marshland appears to be home to a varied avian population. Just like a marshland, the greens are dotted with patches of fresh water.
The only belmish are the mounds of fly ash, which the PWD had dumped years ago after 40 acres were transferred to them. This is where the housing colonies are to come up.
That apart, an old, concrete storm water drain lining its boundaries prevents the rainwater from flowing in the marshes. The wall has cut the marshes from the catchment area. “The DJB in an RTI reply in 2005 admitted that it was building the boundary walls to protect the place from encroachment,” said environmentalist V.K. Jain.
Isn’t it a water body?
Environmentalists say the place is a water body according to the Antic Map of India: Sketch of environs of Delhi, 1807 and is a “swamp” as per Survey of India Map, 1964. “The latest report by the patwari calls it zere ab (water under land),” says Jain.
“The Chief Secretary passed a spoken order clearing the PWD and Delhi Police housing projects in Janagirpuri marshlands after thorough background checks confirming that this was never a water body but barren land,” DJB CEO Arun Mathur said. He also said any construction around it must have been done prior to 1998 when the DJB was part of the MCD.
“After the Renuka Dam is complete in about six years, we might have to build a water treatment plant on this land and that is something Delhi needs,” he said.