What was your first reaction to the Delhi HC judgment?
Sukhna catchment is not a place to construct high-rise buildings. It would have been an ecological disaster if hundreds of flats were to be constructed there. The Tata Camelot project was also a threat to the city’s heritage character. A green signal would have made it easier for other projects to kick-off in the area. Its proximity to the Capitol Complex might have resulted into the breach of Unesco guidelines. From ecological perspective, it would have possibly affected the lake’s water level in the longer run. The natural resources in the catchment area could have come in direct conflict with the teeming population along with auxiliary constructions such as parking, sewage treatment plant, bus shelters and other commercial developments.
How does the judgment protect the Sukhna’s catchment?
As on date, all permissions granted to the project have been quashed. The population explosion, which this project would have caused in the eco-sensitive area, has been avoided. It’s also a wake-up call for the authorities, including the Chandigarh administration, to revisit requirements for preserving the catchment area.
Now, how difficult will it be for builders to seek fresh environmental approval?
The high court has directed the private developer to seek fresh environmental clearance under the centre’s category-A projects, which has different yardsticks than its previous category. I don’t know whether the project, with its existing high-rise building plans, will be able to get the fresh clearance. But I am hopeful the state’s and Centre’s environment impact assessment committees will keep in mind the ecological fragility of the area while taking a fresh call on the project.
What should be the role of UT, which has just turned a blind eye to the issue so far?
The UT has got an opportunity to at least maintain the original character of the city. It’s time for the administration to review the matter and take appropriate steps. Chandigarh should maintain its character as envisioned by Le Corbusier. It makes the city stand apart from the rest of the cities.