Swanky, multi-storeyed apartments and penthouses on the banks of the Yamuna river? No, you are not day dreaming. In four years, off the eastern bank of the river, a huge residential facility, with a capacity to accommodate 8,000 athletes and delegates, will come up on a piece of land designated the Commonwealth Games Village.
Once the Games are over, the facility, housing 1,161 flats, will be auctioned at a cost only a select few can afford. The high-end flats will be priced at over Rs 2 crore.
The apartments will be equipped with all modern-day luxuries — centralised air-conditioning, 100 per cent power backup, an ornamental park, a jogging track, a club house with steam and sauna bath facilities, a swimming pool, a gymnasium, a tennis court and a pool table, among other things. The height of the complex, comprising 24 one-bedroom, 737 three-bedroom, 250 four-bedroom and 150 five-bedroom flats, will vary between five to nine storeys. The complex facing the Akshardham Temple will be of five storeys.
After consigning all environmental concerns to the backburner, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is developing the Games Village on the Yamuna floodplains. Besides the residential zone, the Games Village will have an international zone comprising a ceremonial plaza, retail, leisure and entertainment facilities, a media briefing centre, a cultural centre and a practice area with an athletic track, a swimming pool and a gymnasium.
For the residential facility, the DDA chose the public-private partnership model. It roped in Dubai-based private consortia Emaar MGF to construct the facility.
The DDA had auctioned 11 hectares, earmarked for the residential facility, to Emaar MGF for Rs 321 crore. As part of the deal, the developer will have to hand over one-third of the flats — around 350 — to the DDA after the Games. While the developer has been given the freedom to sell the flats at market rates, the DDA will have to sell its share of flats as well at a pre- determined rate. A recipe for disaster
Environmentalists and urban planners have been opposing the DDA’s move to construct the Games Village on the riverbed. The proposed site falls under zone ‘O’, marked as an “agriculture and water body” in the last Master Plan for Delhi. But the DDA changed the land-use of the proposed site at a hurriedly-called board meet. In the 11 hectares, meant for the residential complex, the land-use clause was changed to ‘residential’ while the rest (5.5 hectares) earned the tag of ‘land for commercial projects’.
Noted urban planner and Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage Convenor (Delhi chapter) A.G.K. Menon says, “The Yamuna riverbed is a fragile eco-sensitive zone. Any concretisation on the riverbed is a recipe for future ecological disaster. The government knows the problem, but it is still going ahead with the project. Even from the planning point of view, it does not make sense. East Delhi is already a very dense area. With projects like these, you are planning to add more population. Will this ecologically fragile area be able to sustain so much development?”
Menon adds, “Yamuna is a monsoon-fed river. In the long-term, developing this area will affect the water management system of the Capital.”
Environmentalists say the riverbed lies on Zone Four, prone to earthquakes, and any further concretisation on the riverbed can spell disaster.
MoEF’s reluctant approval
For a long time, citing environmental concerns, even the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) refused to give an all-clear for the construction of permanent structures at the proposed Games Village site. It, however, gave a temporary clearance to the DDA to go ahead with the planning, subject to the condition that the actual work on permanent structures will not start until the mitigation/abatement measures are identified. Following a study of the site by the Pune-based Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS) and a slew of recommendations, which the DDA agreed to adhere to, the MoEF finally gave its nod. Among other things, CWPRS had sugggested that the upstream and downstream banks on Nizamuddin Road and the railway bridge be strengthened to avoid the possibility of flooding.
Green brigade protests
The green brigade, led by Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, has stepped up protests to prevent any construction on the riverbed. Recently, Magsaysay awardee Rajendra Singh observed a day-long hunger strike while other environmental activists have erected tents at the site to stage an indefinite satyagraha.