Delhi’s Ridge, the scrub forest that helps keep the Capital’s pollution under check and shields it from sandstorms, is being targeted yet again — this time by none other than the state government.
The city’s rulers have picked a particularly green 7.1-acre patch of the Ridge at Chattarpur where they want to build a 225-bed hospital, and have asked the Ridge Management Board (RMB) for clearance.
The RMB will also consider a proposal to widen a dirt track to a 100-foot-wide road, which will serve as an approach to the hospital. Also at risk is a water body located close to the project site.
The Ridge is vital for Delhi because it prevents erosion and acts as a check to hot winds and sand storms from Rajasthan. It absorbs part of the pollution that the city’s burgeoning number of cars spew and helps in keeping groundwater charged.
“The Ridge is much more than just a green lung of Delhi. It contains a lot of biodiversity, heritage and culture. We must protect every inch of it at all costs,” said Ravi Singh, a conservationist.
The government is already facing a tough time in court explaining why it has failed to protect the Ridge from builders. Officially, the Ridge is spread across 7,784 hectares from the north to the south of Delhi, but it has shrunk heavily, despite being protected for the past two decades — experts say by up to a third.
Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit had laid the foundation stone for the hospital in 2008. The RMB needs to give its nod to the project because the land use has to be changed, and the land transferred to the state government.
The RMB was to discuss the two proposals on September 3 under the chairmanship of Delhi’s chief secretary, but the meeting was cancelled. The agenda of the meeting reads: “The directorate of health services has requested RMB to clear a proposal for hospital. The approach road is very narrow, not sufficient for movement of 3,000-4,000 people per day once the hospital is functional. A waterbody is also located near the site”.
Chief secretary DM Spolia did not respond to calls and text messages from HT.
The proposed site of the hospital has been fenced off. Two private security guards have also been hired to make sure nobody dumps debris at the plot.