Ridge board clears four projects on forest land in Delhi | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Ridge board clears four projects on forest land in Delhi

May 14, 2024 05:10 AM IST

The roads, which exist as a dirt trail, are likely to be built with paving blocks, which will be removed after the completion of the Neb Sarai Metro station

The Ridge Management Board (RMB) has approved four projects in the Delhi’s Ridge areas, including the conditional permission to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to divert traffic on two roads that will pass through a 0.57-hectare patch of the southern ridge, officials aware of the matter have said.

According to the minutes of the meeting, the diversion route passes through a 0.39 hectare area of the southern Ridge, and a second 0.14 hectare area passes through the morphological Ridge. The second route, however, requires a diversion of 0.04 hectares of land which a reserved Ridge forest. (HT Archive)
According to the minutes of the meeting, the diversion route passes through a 0.39 hectare area of the southern Ridge, and a second 0.14 hectare area passes through the morphological Ridge. The second route, however, requires a diversion of 0.04 hectares of land which a reserved Ridge forest. (HT Archive)

The roads, which exist as a dirt trail, are likely to be built with paving blocks, which will be removed after the completion of the Neb Sarai Metro station. DMRC had sought permission to use alternative routes to curb traffic snarls in the area.

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The officials said that the board has also approved construction of underground reservoirs and laying of new pipelines – both in Rajendra Nagar, and the construction of a new building of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in Vasant Vihar.

Court reprimand

The proposals were approved by the board in its meeting held on April 30. The project approvals have been sent to the Supreme-Court appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) for final nod, the officials added.

In December last year, the Delhi high court severely reprimanded the forest department for approving the construction of an office building, Van Bhawan, and a new road in the Ridge area, ordering the work on both to be halted. The court said it wondered if the forest department’s Ridge Management Board (RMB) was instead a “Ridge dissolving board” and expressed “shock” over the board’s decisions allowing rampant constructions within what is considered the green lungs of the national capital

Considering a petition regarding the conservation of the Ridge, justice Jasmeet Singh said, “Everyone is crying to protect the ridge. I’m unable to understand what the approach is and this is really disheartening.”.

Approvals to projects in any of the Capital’s four ridge areas has been a controversial issue. One of the recent projects to be approved was on December 6, 2023 when CEC cleared a Delhi Development Authority (DDA) proposal to construct two roads — Gaushala Road, Chattarpur Road to South Asian University (SAU); and SAU to Central Armed Police Force Institute of Medical Sciences (CAPFIMS) — in parts of the Southern Ridge between Chhattarpur and Maidangarhi to facilitate a series of housing projects for central security agencies.

Metro phase-4 project

The RMB had received a proposal from the DMRC last August, seeking temporary use of forest land to divert traffic during the construction of the upcoming Neb Sarai Metro station on the new Golden Line (Aerocity-Tughlakabad). The DMRC said even though traffic was being diverted through the internal roads, near IGNOU and Maidangarhi, these roads were narrow and are unable to handle traffic. The board, in its meeting held on August 24, 2023, had deferred DMRC’s proposal seeking diversion, and had asked it to look at other alternatives, including deployment of additional traffic marshals in the area.

Taking up the same matter in its meeting on April 30, the board observed no effective solution had been found yet and that temporary diversion was possible in the area. However, it added that the DMRC would have to restore the forest area after the completion of the Metro station and return the same land to the forest department.

“To take up the proposed construction activities of the Neb Sarai station, the DMRC had taken various measures for traffic management. However, these roads could still not accommodate traffic due to very narrow width and built-up structures on both sides of the roads. In such a scenario, construction activities are getting hampered. After detailed discussion, keeping in view the genuine requirement of the DMRC, the Board decided to recommend the proposal for consideration of the CEC,” said the minutes of the meeting, dated May 2, a copy of which HT has seen.

Conditional approval

The conditions laid down to use the forest road include ensuring no encroachments come up on the Ridge, by putting up barricades on both sides of these roads. The land will also have to be restored to its original state and returned to the forest department, after construction.

According to the minutes of the meeting, the diversion route passes through a 0.39 hectare area of the southern Ridge, and a second 0.14 hectare area passes through the morphological Ridge. The second route, however, requires a diversion of 0.04 hectares of land which a reserved Ridge forest.

Morphological Ridge is an area that has Ridge-like features (such as rocky terrains and hills), but is not notified or protected forest land.

A forest department official said these roads already existing in the area, but were kuccha roads and part of the natural forest. “These roads already exist as dirt trails, but will be allowed to be used by vehicles, for a temporary period. DMRC has a plan to use paver blocks, which can be used later, once construction is over,” said the official, stating the proposal will first go to the CEC for the final clearance and the work to go ahead.

A DMRC official, when contacted, said no trees will be felled or removed for these roads. “All necessary care and precautions will be taken during the project.”

Other proposals

The board also had proposals from the NDRF and the Delhi Jal Board to carry out construction on Ridge land, which were also approved and recommended to the CEC.

This includes replacing old pipelines with new ones in a park in New Rajendra Nagar. The project aims to improve the water supply to the Chandrawal Water Treatment Plant (WTP). Though no trees are required to be cut for the project, work will have to be carried out in a 1,157 sqm area of the geo-morphological ridge, the minutes of the meeting show.

The second proposal by Delhi Jal Board (DJB) required use of 4,053 sqms to build new underground reservoirs for water storage at Naraina Vihar and New Rajendra Nagar. For this, a total of 86 trees will be impacted, with 64 to be cut and 22 to be transplanted.

The final proposal, which is approved by the board, included utilisation of 0.67 hectares of land in Vasant Vihar to construct the headquarters of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), for which 20 trees will have to be cut, according to the minutes.

Protection of the green lungs

The Ridge Management Board (RMB) was formed following a Delhi high court order in 1995 in the MC Mehta vs. Union of India & others case. Any permission for construction or development work in Delhi’s ridge areas -- central Ridge, northern Ridge, south Central Ridge and southern Ridge -- has to be cleared by the board. The body is also the custodian of the geo-morphological ridge.

On Janurary 25, HT reported how the RMB, since 2021 had cleared 17 development and construction-related proposals of the total 22 that were placed before it.

Environmental activist Bhavreen Kandhari said any damage to the ecosystem of a forest is irreversible, with traffic movement likely to impact the wildlife there. “We may talk about temporarily using a forest patch for movement of vehicles, but how can one restore it back to its original form? The noise generated and the movement of vehicles is bound to disturb the ecosystem and the wildlife there,” she said.

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