A rattled Uttar Pradesh government has undertaken a hurried afforestation exercise at its controversial Bhim Rao Ambedkar Museum and Park project in Noida.
The move comes after the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) began its probe into suspected illegalities in the Rs 187-crore project spread across 33 hectares.
The Noida Authority, said a UP government source who requested anonymity, has set afoot a plan to plant between “50,000 to a lakh” saplings at the project’s site.
The saplings are being planted across a strip of land inside the site that abuts the 8.5 feet high compound walls.
Busts of Dalit icons including Ambedkar, Bahujan Samaj Party’s founder Kanshi Ram and UP chief Minister Mayawati are being erected at the site.
When HT visited the spot, it found nearly half-grown palm trees over 12 feet high — probably uprooted from somewhere else — planted along with saplings nearly four feet high.
“Pata nahin kya hua hai inko, harbadi mein kar rahe hain plantation (I do not what has happened to them, they are planting saplings in haste),” said a project worker when HT spoke to him at the site.
The ministry ordered its probe after HT tried to investigate the project’s suspected illegalities; HT was the first to report of the probe on July 5.
Last Friday, the ministry had sent its inspection team, comprising three of its senior officers, to the site, which found that the project was in violation of key central environmental laws and lacked mandatory clearances.
The project was supposed to acquire a mandatory Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate since it is 35 metres away from the centrally protected Okhla Bird Park and Wild Life Sanctuary.
Any new construction project within 10 km of such a facility is required to do it according to the 2006 September EIA notification.
The project also required an EIA since it is sized over 32 times of the limit of 20,000 square meters as mandated by the same notification.