When the Public Works Department (PWD) started widening a 3.5-km stretch from the Chhatarpur Metro station towards Mahipalpur in South Delhi, it wanted to end perennial traffic jams in the area and offer the residents of Vasant Kunj, one of the greenest localities of the Capital, a smooth ride to the airport.
But the manner in which the department started implementing the plan — and that too without requisite permissions from the authorities concerned — led to multiple problems rather than solving them.
Demolished boundary walls, fallen trees, damaged sewer lines, mounds of soil — there are problems galore.
The PWD started felling trees to widen the stretch between the Metro station and Fortis Hospital without the forest department’s permission, forcing residents and environmentalists to raise their voices against the very project.
And despite the government’s orders to stop work for the time being, the PWD has not obliged, allege residents.
Residents say they have been left out of the consultations. “We’re not against road widening or any development project. But we fail to understand why the Delhi government wants to turn the four-lane stretch into an eight-lane, 75-metre, high-speed facility and that too with so many violations. Residents have also not been taken on board,” said Mukul Chaturvedi, a resident.
Locals met on Monday to chalk out a strategy on how to make the project beneficial for them and also cut down on its side-effects. They will meet again on Tuesday. The unplanned execution has made their lives difficult, they say.
Abha Mahajan, an urban designer and a resident of sector D2, said, “Boundary walls of sectors have been demolished, trees felled without permission, sewer lines damaged. Poor site management has made pedestrian mobility difficult amid mounds of soil.”
Mahajan said neither did the PWD inform the residents not did it take approval from the unified traffic and transportation infrastructure (planning & engineering) centre (UTTIPEC). “The PWD says it has ordered its contractor to stop the project but it has not. The Lt-Governor assured us he would reconsider the proposal but nothing happened.”
“There’s no communication with the residents. We don’t know where this road will lead, whether it will touch the national highway. The government says they will take us on board. It’s all farce,” said another resident who wished not to be named.
“We found that about 1,000 trees would be felled for the project. In the last meeting, the UTTIPEC told the PWD to submit a revised proposal for the project but nothing happened. We don’t understand how this project is going on,” said Bindoo Kapoor, another resident.
‘Can’t keep cheating people all the time’
AN Sharma, President, Residents Welfare Association, Vasant Kunj, D1
We’re not against the widening of the road. We also understand trees are felled for such projects. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But we have other objections. Why make the road an eight-lane carriageway? Both sides of the stretch are residential. We want the road for our own use, not for long-distance, high-speed, heavy vehicular movement. This will lead to fatal accidents, pollution and problems for pedestrians.
The additional four lanes cannot be made without entering into various sectors. This will disturb our lives and the construction will damage the green cover. How many underpasses will they make?
And you can’t keep cheating people. The government should tell us clearly how many trees they want to cut. This is our land.
The colonies built by the Delhi Development Authority are one of the oldest in the Capital. We have paid money for our houses and their surroundings. You cannot enter our boundaries like this.
In many sectors, there are 384 flats. Those living on the periphery are worried. In the four blocks — from D1 to D4 — which would be affected by the widening there are 2100 flats.
Sewer lines have already been damaged once and sewage flowed into houses in D1 on Thursday.
Though the damage has been repaired, residents fear it may happen again. Sectors A, B and C which houses 1,500 flats also face similar problems
“When we sleep at night, they (the contractor) come and remove fences. There is a green belt in sector D1. They’re trying to take it over. We apprehend 200 trees will go in the process. The same will happen in sector D2,” said Abha Mahajan, a resident of sector D2. (As told to Darpan Singh)
Faults in planning and execution
On Wednesday, we will take a look at discrepancies in the planning and execution. The road was supposed to be 75m wide as per Delhi’s master plan.
But the government planned an entire neighbourhood around it. The road was never widened to the plan even long after Vasant Kunj came up.
Why such massive changes now? We will suggest ways on how this project, if it has to be executed at all, can be made for the benefit of all.
We will also offer alternatives to cut down on jams and minimise the burden on the residents.
Minimising impact on environment
In the concluding part, we will take a look at how the Delhi government — which has both PWD and Forest Department under it — failed to ensure an effective coordination that led to the loss of massive green cover.
Despite orders from the government, PWD continues with its digging work with a number of JCB machines. The chief minister looks after the environment ministry.
If the PWD is exceeding the brief, she can make the department fall in line. We will also offer ways on how to minimise the damage and protect the existing trees on the stretch.
I will personally ensure better site management: Rajkumar Chauhan, (PWD minister, Delhi)
Q: No permission was taken from the environment department before felling trees to pave way for the widening of Mehrauli-Mahipalpur Road. Work is still going on?
Clearances from various departments are necessary before any infrastructure work is taken up. In this project also, the construction should have been started only after the necessary approvals were received.
As soon as we came to know that rules have been circumvented, we immediately served a notice to the contractor.
Q: Is it the responsibility of the contractor to get necessary approvals for various departments?
It is for the public works department (PWD) to submit the details of the project to various agencies and get necessary approvals. The exercise is strictly followed whenever we take up infrastructure projects.
We are investigating how the contractor started felling trees and removing structures even when the approvals were not there.
Q: Residents of the area are questioning the need for such a wide road. They feel the road will enter the colony, harming greenery and disturbing their life.
The number of vehicles in Delhi are constantly rising. The volume of traffic on this stretch has increased tremendously in the past few years and adding more width to the road is the only solution. Our engineers studied the project diligently and only then approval was given for its widening.
Q: Since no VIP takes this road, site management is totally missing. One can see debris lying on both sides of the road. Sewer lines have been damaged and sewage water has entered colonies.
It is not that the road is off our radar. All necessary measures should have been taken by the contractor to ensure that the public is not inconvenienced. I will personally inspect the site soon and ensure there is proper site management.