Environment activists have written to the Uttar Pradesh government and ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) over the potential destruction to natural wildlife habitats in Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna Expressway areas due to proposed developmental projects.
Vikrant Tongad, who runs an NGO -- Social Action for Forest and Environment -- on Saturday sent letters to UP chief minister (CM) Akhilesh Yadav and MoEF, seeking their intervention for protection of natural wildlife habitats in Gautam Budh Nagar.
“A day before environment day, I requested the CM and MoEF to intervene as the projects would damage natural wildlife habitats in the guise of development. Meanwhile, the Greater Noida authority has planned to spend `1,000 crore on developing an artificial night safari,” Tongad said.
The night safari was proposed in 2006 and is the first such project in the country.
Tongad had filed a petition with National Green Tribunal (NGT) on May 24, objecting the Greater Noida authority’s plan to develop a pathway and cycle track inside the Surajpur wetland, which is a reserve forest area.
He accused the Greater Noida authority of violating the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 and the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 at Surajpur wetland.
“Illegal felling of trees is taking place both within the reserved forest in question and outside it. The forest officials are cutting trees with no clearance, in contravention of the forest act. The felling of trees is causing irreversible damage to the environment,” said Rahul Chaudhary advocate for petitioner.
The Greater Noida authority is developing an ‘eco park’ for `100 crore inside the wetland and its catchment, in gross violation of rule 4 (vi) of the wetlands rules, environmentalists said.
“We had only planned to plant thousands of trees inside this wetland. We do not want to destroy the wetland or forest reserve. All such allegations are false,” Deepak Agarwal, chief executive officer (CEO) of the Greater Noida authority, said.
Environmentalists said that 68 acres of Bil Akbarpur wetland was destroyed due to projects. The UP government, in 2008-09, had allotted land inside the wetland to a developer for a housing project. Following a petition filed in August 2013, NGT had stopped the housing project and ordered a stay over construction.
“For last 3 years, the NGT has not been able to protect the natural wildlife habitat in Greater Noida. The only thing we get is a new date for the hearing,” Akash Vashistha, an environmentalist, said.
HV Girish, district forest officer of Gautam Budh Nagar said, “We will not comment on the Bil Akbarpur wetland case as it is still pending with NGT.”
Greater Noida authority CEO said that the wetland did not fall under its jurisdiction.
Another environmentalist, Anand Arya, said the areas in Noida, Greater Noida and Yamuna have rich wildlife habitat as they are located between the Hindon and Yamuna. Instead of conserving it, the authorities are destroying it, he said.
“Authorities should be sensitive towards ecology as it impacts the quality of air that we breathe. If we do not take corrective steps now, things will get out of control in the future and we will have to resort to things like vehicle rationing, which is being done in Delhi,” advocate Amit Khemka, who is contesting several environment related cases, said.