The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has informed the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), constituted by the Supreme Court to probe suspected illegalities in Noida’s Bhim Rao Ambedkar Memorial Park, that the project’s site was a forested tract till construction began.
A senior MoEF official told the CEC that satellite images of the project’s site in the year 2006 have shown that it used to be a forest before 6,003 trees were felled to make way for it.
The CEC, which met Noida Authority (NA) and MoEF officials on Wednesday, however directed the central ministry to submit its written response on the alleged violations by the park within six days.
The committee seeks to verify the illegalities of the project and its adverse impact on the contiguous centrally protected Okhla Bird Park and Wildlife Sanctuary as alleged by a public interest litigation filed before by two local residents, Anand Arya and Kanan Jaswal.
The two petitioners, Arya and Jaswal, on March 5 this year had requested the apex court to direct the stoppage of work at the project since it had lacked the mandatory Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) certificates from the MoEF though it was located in close proximity to the sanctuary and was sized above the limit of 20,000 square metres.
At the meeting, the NA officials told the CEC that the “covered activity area (built space) was much below the limit of 20,000 square metres beyond which a new construction activity would require an EIA from the MoEF”.
Besides, NA officials also claimed, the park’s site was not a “notified forest” and therefore no permission under the Central conservation Act was required from the MoEF’s regional office in Lucknow.