Just four days after the Supreme Court asked the Uttar Pradesh government for a reply to why public money is being wasted on building grand memorials in the state, another of Chief Minister Mayawati’s pet multi-crore projects — the Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar memorial park and museum, coming up on four square kilometres in Noida’s Sector 16A and 19 — is in trouble for failing to acquire the mandatory environmental clearance.
Minister of State for Environment and Forests (MoEF) Jairam Ramesh has ordered a probe to verify the legality of the project.
A senior MoEF official, who is part of the exercise but is not authorised to talk to media, told HT, “The fact-finding team has been asked to examine the project’s legal status on two crucial grounds, firstly, if the UP government has acquired an Environmental Impact Assess-ment (EIA) certificate prior to commencement of the project, as mandated. Secondly, if the state government has acquired an EIA for the project, that runs contiguous with the eastern boundary of UP’s Okhla Bird Park and Wild Life Sanctuary.”
Any project above 20,000 square metres in area needs an EIA certificate. Moreover, construction work anywhere within 10 km of the boundary of a place protected under the Wildlife Act also needs environmental clearance.
The sanctuary, a part of the Yamuna eco-system, is spread over an area of four square kilometer and around 400 out of the Delhi’s known 450 bird species have been sighted here. It’s home to the protected Indian Golden Oriole, Barbets – Coppersmith, Minivet –Small and Long-tailed, Black-rumped Flameback, and the Yellow-footed Green Pigeon.
Ramesh has also asked wild life experts to submit their report by Monday as to whether the project is violating the Wild Life (Protection) Act 1972 and would harm the Okhla Bird Park and Wild Life Sanctuary.”
Noida Authority’s Additional Chief Executive Officer PN Batham, when asked for his reaction, said, “I cannot talk about the Memorial project.” Noida’s Chief Executive Officer Mohinder Singh also refused to respond.
Vineet Chaudhary, who runs a local NGO Hai Ummeed, said he had sought to know the size, budget, and duration of the memorial park project through an RTI application but it was refused without citing any reason. Chaudhary said that the project’s site has “gobbled up three parks”— Smriti Vana (meant to honour the memory of soldiers killed in the Kargil Indo-Pak battle), Nav Graha and an amusement park for children.
The Noida project is coming up on a 4 km-long slice of green space adjoining the Okhla sanctuary and the eastern end of the Yamuna riverbank, across sectors 16 A, 19, 38 A and 95. “On a prime piece of land where the real estate is valued at Rs. 1.5 lakh per square meter, the Mayawati government, instead of spending of the basic amenities like drinking water and power as required by the Noida villages, is wasting precious taxpayer money by building memorials and her own statues,” complained Congress’s Ramesh Chandra Tomar, Noida’s former Lok Sabha representative.