One in every seven of Delhi’s natural conservation zones (NCZs) - which includes forests, wastelands and waterbodies - has disappeared between 2005 and 2012, shows a scientific report by the national capital region planning board (NCRPB).
The report based on satellite images says that these natural features have shrunk by 2,382.55 hectares or 15.43% within a gap of seven years - possibly pointing out why pollution has grown and groundwater tables have depeleted in the capital.
The NCRPB’s letters asking for an explanation from the Delhi government (on May 6, June 23 and July 1 this year) have gone unanswered. The letter on July 1, which was a reminder for an earlier notice, had sought a reply from the Delhi government by July 15. If there were to be none, “it is presumed that aforesaid variations are cases of violations of the regional plan-2021.” The deadline ended on Tuesday. “They have not responded. They are yet to submit a detailed reply,” said a senior NCRPB official, requesting anonymity.
HT’s phone calls and text messages to Delhi’s acting environment secretary, Arun Baroka, who is to respond to the NCRPB notice, went unanswered.
A senior forest department official, on the condition of anonymity, seemed to question the NCRPB’s claims. “We don’t know where NCRPB got its data. We certainly didn’t provide that. Encroachment of natural features may be a reason behind the reduction. But an agency like Geospatial Delhi Limited must look into the claims before we can comment on it,” he said.
NCRPB member secretary Naini Jayaseelan on May 6 wrote to Delhi chief secretary Sanjay Kumar Srivastava regarding variations in area and percentage in NCZ and sought reasons for the same within a week. No reply came.
NCRPB on June 23 sent a notice to Baroka, to no avail again. Jayaseelan on July 1 wrote to Srivastava, “Please instruct him (nodal officer) to submit a detailed reply within 15 days failing which it is presumed that aforesaid variations are cases of violations of the regional plan-2021.”