Under pressure from the green brigade in Gautam Budh Nagar, the forest department has shelved its Eco Park project inside the Surapur wetland and forest reserve.
Eco Park was proposed as a concept to attract visitors to wetlands and forest reserves. The project was allotted a ₹130-crore budget and included the construction of a cycle track and a 4km pathway, besides other facilities, inside the wetland. It was inaugurated in April 2014 by the chief minister.
However, environmentalists contended that construction work and human intervention inside the wetland would affect the ecology.
The wetland is spread across 325 hectares and consists a natural lake of 80 hectares. It is located on the Dadri-Surajpur-Chhalera (DSC) road in Greater Noida, 20 km from Noida. Surajpur bird sanctuary is a haven for migratory birds.
“We have stopped construction of the pathway and other works inside the Surajpur wetland and forest reserve. We never wanted to carry out any construction activity that would damage the wildlife or forest area. But now that activists are against the construction a track, we have decided to not carry out any further work,” HV Girish divisional forest officer, Gautam Budh Nagar, said.
The decision comes after environmentalist Vikrant Tongad filed a plea in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) objecting to development projects inside the sanctuary. NGT, on June 3, 2016, stayed construction inside the wetland and sought reports from the UP government and the Centre on the issue. The case is still on trial in NGT.
“We will follow NGT order on this whenever it comes, but we will not carry out any work on the pathway. That is clear,” said the DFO.
Tongad, a Greater Noida based environmentalist accused the Greater Noida authority of violating environmental norms. Tongad alleged that an Eco Park within the wetland and its catchment is in gross violation of rule 4 (vi) of the wetlands (conservation and management) rules, 2010. He alleged that the authority also violated the Forest (conservation) Act, 1980.
“If they do not want to continue the construction, we welcome the step. However, they should transport all tiles and construction material that still lies inside the sanctuary. They should also stop cutting trees for development works,” Tongad said.
“The forest department had planned to concrete the pathway by laying tiles on it, which would have caused more damage to the wetland. The Greater Noida authority is developing a sports city and a 130m wide road on the catchment of the wetland, which is obstructing the Kheri-Bhanouta drain, one of the main suppliers to the Surajpur wetland,” Tongad said.
Tongad has also demanded the protection of seven natural wetlands that supply water to Surajpur wetland.