The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) said on Saturday that it would scrap, wherever required, its ambitious Yamuna riverfront development (YRFD) projects so that the river’s floodplains could be saved.
The DDA reaction comes a day after an expert panel recommended to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) that the planning authority’s recreational spots located in active floodplain areas would kill the river and cause floods in the city.
DDA vice-chairman Balvinder Kumar told Hindustan Times: “We will go by the expert panel’s recommendations. We started building recreational spots to save the ecologically-fragile floodplains from encroachment. But we respect the panel’s views and will implement the alternative ways it has suggested to protect the floodplains”.
The DDA has made its stand clear even as the NGT has asked it to respond to the panel’s report in about four weeks. The tribunal will take a final call on the matter on May 22.
Manoj Misra of NGO Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, who is the petitioner in the current NGT case, said: “It’s a sheer waste of public funds. Nature is most beautiful in its wilderness and starkness. It needs no embellishment. You kill rivers through amphitheatres, exhibition areas, mythological parks and food plazas”.
“Planners and managers in Delhi, thanks to the NGT, have now a unique opportunity to showcase to the world what great river restoration works could be carried out in the heart of a megapolis,” he said.
The panel formed by the union ministry of environment and forests on NGT’s directive has said in its report: “Further construction in the floodplain in the name of riverfront development will completely destroy the river. Water will be polluted and because of reduced flood-carrying capacity of the river, the city on its both sides will face flood threats. Fisheries and groundwater recharge will also be affected”.
The DDA has developed a biodiversity park on the west bank of Wazirabad barrage in 63.6 hectares. It’s outside the floodplains. “It’s phase II development in 121.5 hectares is inside the floodplains, but that project will not affect the river,” the panel has said.
However, immediately south of the west bank, there is a Sur Ghat built for devotees. “The DDA has plans to build several structures, mounds, parking lots and boating facilities. The river flows close to the ghats. The water is highly polluted, shallow and full of garbage. The area should not be developed as proposed by the DDA,” the panel says.
There is a Golden Jubilee Park (154 hectares) near Old Railway Bridge opposite Red Fort. Two phases are proposed.
Some development has already taken place. The DDA has planned another such project south of Nizamuddin Bridge. “Both these projects will degrade the river further. They should be stopped and the areas restored to the river as its floodplains,” the panel has said.