Environmentalists demand adherence to central norms for Yamuna e-way
A week after the much-awaited and delayed 165-km Greater Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway was inaugurated — substantially reducing travel time between New Delhi and Agra — environmentalists are raising "some serious concerns", Darpan Singh reports.india Updated: Aug 16, 2012 10:54 IST
A week after the much-awaited and delayed 165-km Greater Noida-Agra Yamuna Expressway was inaugurated — substantially reducing travel time between New Delhi and Agra — environmentalists are raising "some serious concerns".
Manoj Mishra, convener of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, a civil society consortium, said, "The developer, Jaypee Infratech, claims to have planted lakhs of trees and shrubs, besides massive grass turfing, but the expressway does not have a green look."
He added, "Developers, nowadays, have scant regard for environment. Their sole agenda is the recovery of the money they have put in their projects."
"The project is cleared — with certain conditions — by courts and the government. But the key lies in adherence to those conditions. The developer should have planted the trees and shrubs — which it claims it has — much earlier, so that when the expressway opened, it had a green look."
Brij Khandelwal, an environment activist in Agra, said, "A number of trees were felled in the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone — a defined area around the Taj Mahal to protect it from pollution — but compensatory plantation was carried out in adjoining districts. It is a fertile potato belt and the rainfall pattern has become skewed."
Khandelwal added, "The five townships that the developer would be building along the expressway would mean concretisation in 200km. The temperature will go up and, in the long term, there will be severe environmental repercussions."
"In August 2010, the project had come under the Supreme Court’s scanner, after it was learnt that a large number of trees in the Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) had to be felled to make way for the toll road," he said.
In July 2011, the centre had allowed the construction on certain conditions.
"There is no doubt that the project is for public good, but you cannot tweak environmental norms to expedite it. The centre had categorically said that if the company failed to fulfil its obligations, the contract would automatically be considered void," he said.
Even a senior Yamuna Authority official admitted, "We have issued only a substantial completion certificate to the developer as some features of the expressway are not yet complete. We have ordered their completion within 180 days from the date of issuance of this certificate."
Mishra said, "Because of the project, the floodplain has been restricted. Now, the sewage of these proposed townships will go into the Yamuna. Since treated water will be used for irrigation, agricultural produces will also be contaminated and affect people’s health."