Delhi’s last remnant of marshland is under threat from urbanisation. The Capital’s pollution watchdog has cleared a proposal to build a residential complex over 60 acres, 20 acres of which is marshland — shallow wetland with abundant grass cover.
The site is located at Dheerpur in north Delhi, close to the Yamuna, where the government has proposed to build 5,000 houses, shopping complexes, besides other facilities for Delhi Police personnel.
Environmentalists have raised the red flag since the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA), which granted clearance to the public-private partnership project on February 4, has allowed discharge of 12,200 litres of treated sewage into the ecologically-sensitive 20-acre part every day.
“This will change the complexion of the marshland,” said Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan. Experts say it is critical to save marshland and wetland as they are home to flora and fauna and a natural waste water treatment system.
Pollution-control activist Mahendra Pandey said, “The project would harm aquatic plants and scare away birds, especially Delhi’s state bird sparrow. Dheerpur is the only place in Delhi where Sparrow can be seen in large groups at any time.”
“The whole area will turn into a pond, leading to flooding,” he said.
The clearance for the housing project has been given despite the fact that Delhi’s environment department has already drawn up a plan to protect this marshland.
“The project is yet another example of the systematic destruction of Delhi’s water bodies. Parts of the same marshland are being lost to Metro construction in Jahangirpuri,” said Misra.
The same SEIAA in 2010 did not allow a construction project by the DDA at the same site since “construction of hundreds of flats will lead to public health hazards, outbreaks and spread of diseases... besides reduction in quality of life”.
But the pollution watchdog defended itself. SEIAA chief Sandeep Mishra said, “No construction will be allowed in the marshy area. Even parking of vehicles will be banned in that area. Waste water will first be treated before being discharged to ensure there is no harm to the biodiversity.” But Pandey countered that the project clearance is even otherwise illegal as the area falls under the Najafgarh drain basin, where the Union environment ministry has banned grant of clearance to check further pollution to the Yamuna,” said Pandey.