Contrary to the concerns expressed by green activists, the developer of Yamuna Expressway, Jaypee Infratech, says the project will in fact help improve the environment and control pollution in the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone (TTZ) — a defined area around the Taj Mahal.
Askari H Zaidi, senior vice-president (corporate communications) of the Jaypee group, said, "We share the concerns. But we have done all that was expected of us. An environment impact assessment study, which was carried out, recommended the project as it would and has meant uninterrupted flow of traffic, reduced distance and travel time and less emission from vehicles."
"A Supreme Court-appointed central empowered committee commented in its report that the expressway, in the context of the TTZ, would reduce jams and pollution by diverting traffic from the Taj Mahal. Solar lighting has been proposed and fly ash for the conservation of natural resources," said Zaidi.
The firm says only 1,254 trees were felled for the project and a process of compensatory afforestation is complete.
"We transferred 5.167 hectares in Mathura and 11.5731 hectares in Kanshiram Nagar to the state forest department. The cost of compensatory afforestation has been paid to the government," he said.
But when trees were felled in the TTZ, why plantation in Mathura and Kanshiram Nagar districts?
"Under the prevailing rules of the state, we had to carry out compensatory afforestation anywhere in UP. The state government gave its go-ahead to the inauguration only after we were done with the afforestation process," said Zaidi.
Many say the expressway does not give a green look?
"We have done what we could. We have planted medium trees, shrubs and bougainvillea. Grass turfing has also been done. Parkinsonia seeds have been sown. We have also completed the sowing of Julius prosophisphora Julius prosophisphora will act as a biological hedge," he added.
"Plantation cannot be done when construction is on because of dust, concrete and other factors. The survival rate of plants will not be desirable. Plantation started immediately after the construction got over," Zaidi said.
Firm blames locals for animal deaths. The developer of Yamuna Expressway, Jaypee Infratech, has blamed villagers for the frequent deaths of animals such as rabbits, dogs and hyenas, who came under the wheels of speeding vehicles.
Zaidi said, "For the first time in India, we have provided barbed wire fencing, in addition to metal beam crash barrier, to prevent ingress of animals on the expressway. However, animals entered the expressway because at some locations the fencing has been either removed or cut by local people. Action to rectify this is being taken."