5.5km of Metro Phase-4 line may traverse Ridge, documents show
A section of the Ridge, known as Delhi’s green lung, may be compromised for the construction of a section of the Delhi Metro’s Aerocity-Tughlakabad corridor under the Phase-4 expansion plan, shows permission requests and letter exchanged between the Metro corporation and the city’s forest department.
Documents accessed by Hindustan Times show that the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has sought permission from the forest department to take up 50,875sqm of Ridge land for permanent and temporary use.
Permission requests have also shown that at least 695 trees in the Ridge area will be affected by the Metro construction work.
In a request sent to the forest department in 2019, DMRC said 5.55km of the proposed 23.62km corridor is in the Ridge, of which 20,083sqm was in Mahipalpur (Ridge area), 16,992 sqm near Indira Gandhi National Open University (morphological Ridge, a part of the Ridge that has ‘ridge-like features’ but is not part of the notified forests), 11,600sqm in Anandmayee Marg (Southern Ridge) and another 2,200sqm also in the Southern Ridge.
Of the total 50,875sqm of Ridge land for which DMRC has sought permission, 8,005sqm will be used to build permanent structures, while the remaining 42,870sqm will be used temporarily for construction work and will be returned to the forest department after work completion, the documents read.
In another letter to the member secretary of the Ridge Management Board (RMB) in March 2020, the DMRC mentioned the total Ridge area required was 82,426sqm, of which 14,324sqm was to be kept permanently for entry/exits, ancillary buildings and shafts, etc, while the remaining 68,102sqm will be restored after project completion.
Unlike constructions at a public place, entry into the Ridge requires the construction agency to seek approval not only from the city forest department but also from the RMB.
Documents show that the forest department has also asked the DMRC to identify “an equivalent parcel of non-forest land, which can be earmarked for compensatory afforestation in lieu of diversion of forest land as per norms of Forest Conservation Act (1980)”.
In an e-mail response to HT’s queries, DMRC said it has identified the land for compensatory plantation as directed by the forest department.
Details of the Aerocity-Tughlakabad corridor show that at Mahipalpur, the alignment of the Metro corridor crosses through the southern Ridge for around 1,382 metres and through the morphological Ridge for 818 metres. At Kishangarh, the corridor will pass through 1,491 metres of the south-central Ridge and through 301 metres of the morphological Ridge.
In a letter to the ridge board, the DMRC stated that the location of the station at Kishangarh was chosen to “serve commuters from Kishangarh, Shanti Kunj, Bhawani Kunj and Vasant Kunj sectors A and D”.
The DMRC said they have “made all possible efforts to use only a minimum portion of the Ridge area”.
“As a responsible organisation which has taken a number of measures to preserve the environment, DMRC is extremely conscious of its responsibilities,” DMRC said in their response.
“However, it may be appreciated that the Ridge covers vast areas of south Delhi through which this alignment is planned and it would have been absolutely impossible to cater to the large population there without passing through the Ridge area. Also, only bare minimum land area in Ridge shall be used,” the DMRC said in its email.
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It also confirmed that they are yet to receive the permissions they have asked for.
Delhi L-G constituted the RMB in 1995 on the directions of the Supreme Court to protect the Ridge area from encroachment and non-forest activities. The apex court called for the protection of the Ridge as the “green lungs” of the city.
Director of environmental NGO Toxics Links, Ravi Agarwal, who was also a former independent member of RMB, said, “Infrastructure in a growing city is only going to increase but how do you conserve and protect something like the Ridge, which is the only remaining green space for Delhi. There are always ways to divert alignments around the green belts, it has been done in the past. We had asked the Metro to go underground during the Airport Express Line construction and also told them to divert their alignment while their line was crossing Chattarpur.”
Currently, a fully constituted RMB does not exist. It is yet to appoint two independent experts.