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Maya’s million-dollar trouble

delhi Updated: Jul 10, 2009 23:52 IST
Abhishek Sharan
Abhishek Sharan
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The place is piled with pink sandstones and granite, specially ordered from Dholpur in Rajasthan. Red cranes are dotting the landscape at places.

The only patch of green at the site of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar Museum in Noida is a 9-ft-long netted cotton curtain that snuggles close to the metal scaffoldings running along the boundary wall.

Spread over 33 hectares of prime real estate in Noida, the place falls between National Highway 24 and the Yamuna eco-system.

Over a year ago, before work on the project began, the residents considered the area as Noida’s green lung. It hosted five, densely wooded public parks — Nandan Kanan, Nature Trail, Children’ s Park, Smriti Van and Nava Graha Park.

Now, all you can see inside the 8.5 inch by 6 ft wall is concrete and stones.

A probe ordered by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) last week has established conclusively that the project violates some key Central environment laws.

The inspection team submitted a report to the ministry suggesting the issuance of “stop work notice/s” to the project, said Deputy Conservator Ritu Raj who was part of the probe team.

The probe was ordered after HT Sunday tried to investigate the legalities behind the park. HT’s queries sent to the minister have become a part of the ministry's case report.

“The minister ordered a probe after receiving HT’s email regarding the suspected illegality of the project,” said a senior
official in the ministry who is coordinating the probe and did not wish to be named.

Central Conservator of Forests (Uttar Pradesh) Azam Zaidi, who was leading the probe team, said the project needed clearances from the ministry that were not taken.

HT accompanied him when Zaidi inspected the site on Friday for over four hours.

“The project does not have an environmental impact assessment certificate though it is located between 0 to 50 meters of the Okhla Bird Park and Wild Life Sanctuary,” he said.

The sanctuary is centrally protected and a notification, dated September 14, 2006, requires that any new construction project located within 10 kms of the facility have an impact assessment certificate before commencing work.

The other point, Zaidi said, was that the project is sized 33 hectares (around 3.3 lakh square metre), but again does not have an impact assessment certificate as required by the same 2006 notification issued under the Environmental Protection Act, 1986.

“The 2006 notification says that a project sized at least 10,000 square metre must acquire an EIA from the MoEF,” he said. The hacking of 6,003 trees, including the silvery Eucalyptus which needs special permission, also violated the laws.

“Though the parks, displaced by the project, were not notified forests, they were deemed forests according to a Supreme Court ruling,” Zaidi said. “The project planners and executors were mandated to take my permission to uproot 6,003 trees under the Forest Conservation Act.”