‘Peaceful life’, ‘green surroundings’ and ‘quality living’ are some of the promises with which real estate hoardings lure buyers to Delhi’s satellite towns. The reality, though, is completely different.
For over a decade, the cycle of construction and growth has given the cities of Ghaziabad, Noida and Gurgaon an ever-rising skyline and a persistent blanket of dust.
According to the Haryana Pollution Control Board, the respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) in Gurgaon increased from 350 µg/m3 in 2015 to 415 µg/m3 in 2016. Though the equivalent figures are much lower in Noida and Ghaziabad, a report by the Greater Noida authority revealed that construction projects are the main cause of air pollution there.
As per the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), on October 8 evening, Noida’s PM10 (particulate matter) was 213 microgrammes per cubic metre as against the permissible limit of 100. “The level is more than double the permissible limit in areas around sector 62. In other parts of Noida, the air is even more polluted. Air pollution is worst in Greater Noida West, where construction is underway on around 80 realty projects,” said Sharad Tiwari, an environmentalist.
The problem largely stems from the absence of measures to prevent pollution at construction sites. These sites do not have cover scaffoldings and water is not sprinkled to prevent dispersal of dust as directed by the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).
Similarly, adequate arrangements are not made for transportation of construction material despite an NGT order . The April 2015 order say a person/builder will be liable to pay compensation of Rs 50,000 per violation in relation to construction activity and Rs 5,000 for transportation of construction material or debris without covering it.
“The internal roads in Gurgaon’s sector 77, 76, 78 are filled with dust as the roads are broken and dumpers carrying construction material flout NGT norms. It is hard to breathe on the main road that connects sector 77 and sector 62 due to the construction of Metro and underpass. I have stopped using my motorbike on this route and travel by car,” said Amit Gupta, a software engineer and resident of sector 77.
The situation is equally grim in the new sectors of Gurgaon, where a majority of buildings are under construction. These areas are wrapped in a permanent haze and residents claim they never see a clear sky. “Dust clouds cover the sky completely. Living in these areas is difficult as we rarely get fresh air. Each year, the region receives less rainfall and the dust never settles,” said Kavita Saini, a resident of GPL Eden Heights, Sector-70.
Acting on the NGT order, the Greater Noida authority slapped a fine of Rs 50,000 each on 40 builders for causing dust pollution. The authority fined six contractors for burning waste instead of disposing it in an authorised manner. Since April 2015, the Noida authority has levied Rs 1,18,50,000 as penalty on 37 builders who flouted the NGT’s order and caused air pollution.
The Noida authority attempted to use dust sucking machines on the lines of Gurgaon to reduce air pollution but the plan did not work. “Our officials studied the system but the plan was not economically viable. The authority has hired a private agency for mechanical sweeping on Master Plan-I, II, III, Noida-Greater Noida Expressway and Dadri-Surjapur-Chhalera road,” said Saumya Srivastava deputy chief executive officer of the Noida authority.
“Our teams go on random inspections and we take action if they find a realtor violating NGT directions,” said SC Gaur, chief architect and town planner of the Noida authority. In Gurgaon such inspections are a distant dream.
Similarly, the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) has so far imposed penalty in 44 cases where notices were issued to developers or those undertaking construction under the authority’s jurisdiction. The authority collected a penalty amount of Rs 50,000 to Rs 1,00,000 in 34 of these cases.
“We are conducting regular drives to check compliance with the NGT orders and developers and sites have been penalized. Action is also taken up on public complaints,” said DP Singh, officer on special duty, GDA.
This is Part 4 of our ongoing series ‘Save our Lungs’, which looks at how to combat pollution in Delhi.