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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Delhi's Gymkhana Club may be shut on pollution charges

Darpan Singh, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 23, 2014
First Published: 00:17 IST(23/8/2014) | Last Updated: 00:22 IST(23/8/2014)

The Capital's pollution watchdog has ordered the immediate closure of the Delhi Gymkhana Club, a bastion of India’s military and bureaucratic elite for over a century, holding it responsible for wasting water, causing pollution and violating other environmental norms.

The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) said the club was using bore wells without authorisation, and had failed to ensure adequate waste management, reuse of treated wastewater and rainwater harvesting. The DPCC says the club has not fixed these problems despite assurances given in response to a show-cause notice.

Dating back to the British Raj, the club — founded in 1913 at north Delhi’s Coronation Park — moved to a 27-acre plot on Safdarjung Road in the early 1930s on perpetual lease. The waiting list for membership is long and an applicant has to wait for as long as 35 years to get in.

The August 11 closure order, accessed by HT, says, “…you shall close your kitchens, restaurants and laundries with immediate effect. New Delhi Municipal Council shall disconnect the electricity and water supplies for these units. The deputy commissioner shall close the club immediately. Non-compliance shall attract penal action.” 

“The club has rejected the allegations and filed an appeal. “We have followed all pollution-control norms. We approached the National Green Tribunal against the DPCC’s closure order and got a stay on Friday. The matter will be heard next on September 24,” club secretary OP Malhotra told HT.

 The club asked the DPCC for renewal of consent to operate last March. In December, the pollution regulator inspected the club and found “various deficiencies”.

In February this year, the DPCC issued a show-cause notice to the club asking it to explain, in 15 days, why it should not be shut down. The club submitted a reply in March and said corrective measures have been taken.

“[But] in June we inspected the club to verify the claims and found six rainwater harvesting pits were clogged, effluent was not being treated properly, treated wastewater was not being reused and five bore wells were being used without permission,” said DPCC’s environmental engineer Siddhartha Gautam.
 
A government official, however, admitted, “In most cases such clubs are not actually shut down. When they get closure orders, they provide a bank guarantee and seek time to set things right. Our motive is to check pollution and conserve scarce resources.” 

“See, ours is a very old club. We have been using bore wells for years. It takes time to get sanction for that. The tribunal has asked us to take permission. We will do so,” said Malhotra.


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