DDA plans to mark boundaries of Yamuna plains, experts raise alarm
- The officials said the proposal will be submitted to the principal committee of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Experts, however, warned that any change in the boundaries of the already encroached-upon floodplain will spell doom for the Yamuna.
The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is preparing a proposal to demarcate the boundaries of Zone O -- the land planning zone which encompasses the Yamuna floodplains -- to provide ownership rights to 76 unauthorised colonies that have come up along the river, senior officials aware of the matter said.
The officials said the proposal will be submitted to the principal committee of the National Green Tribunal (NGT). Experts, however, warned that any change in the boundaries of the already encroached-upon floodplain will spell doom for the Yamuna.
The Parliament passed the National Capital Territory of Delhi (Recognition of Property Rights of Residents in Unauthorised Colonies) Bill in December 2019 to provide ownership rights to over 40 lakh people living in 1,797 unauthorised colonies across the capital.
DDA had to suspend the process of survey and assessment in these 76 colonies including Jaitpur, Badarpur, Okhla, Karawal Nagar since they fall under Zone O. As per the MPD-2021 norms, no construction is allowed in Zone O that is spread over 8,070 hectares along the Yamuna in Delhi.
Floodplains play an important role in maintaining the flow of the river, helping recharge ground water and providing a habitat for aquatic biodiversity. They are integral to river hydrology. A senior DDA official said in the latest proposal, the agency was marking all the different kinds of developments that have come up in Zone O.
A second official speaking on the condition of anonymity said, “The floodplain has to be protected...but these unauthorised colonies are located outside the floodplain.” The official added that taking these colonies out of the Zone O will help provide better infrastructure and environment-friendly development.
Residents of Jaitpur, Badarpur, Okhla, Karawal Nagar, etc have been demanding that their colonies should be denotified from Zone O.
Anil Sharma, a resident of Meethapur in south east Delhi, has formed an association to push the demand for removal of the colony’s name from the restricted zone. He said the colony was situated more than 1.5km away from the floodplain.
“This was agricultural land, but we are still placed in ‘O’ zone. Due to this, several development projects are stuck. We can’t even reconstruct our houses,” said Sharma.
After the Centre announced the PM-UDAY scheme, several residents of these colonies applied for ownership rights. Mahesh Yadav, 52, who has a house in Ekta Vihar in the Badarpur assembly constituency, said his application was rejected last year and DDA suspended the scheme in his colony. “I had all the paperwork in place, but my application was rejected as the colony falls in Zone O... It is a huge disappointment,” said Yadav, who has been living here for the past 28 years and works with an insurance firm.
BJP MLA Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, who is the leader of Opposition in the Delhi assembly, said the process to define O-zone was incorrect. “It includes areas which are over a kilometre away from the river. There are resettlement colonies, which were given land by the DDA, and several villages that have been in existence for years... These should be removed from the zone so that development can happen. The Centre has come out with PM-UDAY, but lakhs of residents can’t benefit from the scheme,” said Bidhuri.
But environmentalists disagreed. Manoj Misra, convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, said, “The move will play havoc with the integrity of the river in the city and set a wrong and dangerous precedent... By delineating the boundaries of Zone O, efforts are being made to legalise all illegal constructions. I have written to Delhi L-G and DDA that this shouldn’t be done.”
Referring to the concerns of residents in 76 unauthorised colonies, Misra said, “The NGT judgment of January 2015 already provides for such exigencies suggesting that these areas be treated as a ‘special area within Zone O’ so that activities like laying of sewer lines, etc could be carried out there without requiring any change in the existing boundaries of the zone.”
Shashank Shekhar, professor at DU’s department of geology, said these colonies have come up illegally and delineating the zone ‘O’ will set a wrong precedent. “The aim should be to protect the floodplain. Before going to NGT with its proposal, DDA should get a study done by experts to explore and suggest possible environmentally sustainable options to the problem.”