The Uttar Pradesh forest department has decided not to notify six areas adjoining Greater Noida’s Surajpur wetland as wetlands.
The UP government, in an affidavit to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday, said that the six areas are merely low-lying areas and do not qualify as a wetland.
NGT had sought reply from UP chief secretary if seven wetlands can be protected. The tribunal had sought a reply, following a petition by environmentalist Vikrant Tongad, who sought protection of all seven wetlands.
The forest department in its affidavit said that it has decided to notify only the 60-hectare Surajpur wetland area that is part of bird sanctuary.
“We cannot notify and protect the six other wetlands because these are low-lying areas and are not owned by the government. Some parts of the six wetlands are owned by farmers, who do agricultural activities. Some part is tied in litigation at the Supreme Court. One wetland area is being used by the UP police while another wetland area is used by the Greater Noida authorities to store sewage. Therefore, we cannot protect these areas and notify them as wetlands,” HV Girish, divisional forest officer (DFO) of Gautam Budh Nagar forest department, said.
The next hearing in the case is scheduled for September 6.
In the affidavit, the UP forest department said that parts of these six wetlands, in south, south-east, south-west portions, is acquired by the Greater Noida authority for urbanisation. Construction activities are also ongoing on some parts of the land encompassing the six areas.
The petitioner, Tongad, however, has decided to challenge the claim made by the forest department.
“The forest department’s reply shows that they do not have the desire to protect and notify the wetlands located around Surajpur wetland. If we do not protect these six wetlands, the area will become prone to flooding during rains. These six wetlands act as the catchment area for Surajpur wetland. If these wetlands are allowed to perish, Surajpur wetland will also become dry in the future. These wetlands help recharge the water table of Surajpur wetland,” Tongad said.