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Signature Bridge violated green norms: Experts

In a spot check, HT had found that almost of the entire stretch of the river — from its eastern bank to the western bank — was blocked by construction and demolition waste and soil leaving only a few metres for the river to pass through, like a trickle.

delhi Updated: Apr 19, 2019 07:26 IST
Joydeep Thakur
Joydeep Thakur
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
demolition waste,Yamuna,DTTDC
Even five months after construction, debris, which has not been removed, is choking the flow of the river Yamuna.(Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

Delhi’s new iconic structure — the Signature Bridge — was constructed allegedly violating at least two “specific conditions” stated in the environment clearance (EC), experts and activists have pointed out.

On Wednesday, Hindustan Times had reported how even five months after the Signature Bridge was opened for traffic, construction and demolition debris has not been removed, and how that has almost choked Yamuna’s flow.

The bridge was given an environmental clearance by the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) in February 2017 with “specific conditions” that no waste, including construction spoils, should be dumped into the river and that the river’s flow should not be obstructed at any point.

Point number one of the ‘specific conditions’ mentioned in the EC — which HT has a copy of — states: “Project proponent shall ensure that there shall be no disposal of construction spoils/waste into the river Yamuna and its floodplains.”

“All the pictures show that it is a clear violation of the conditions laid down in the EC. Debris has been dumped into the river and the river’s flow has been obstructed. It is also clear that a road has been built below the bridge so that heavy machinery can move in,” CR Babu, professor emeritus and head of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystem (CEMDE) at Delhi University, said.

In a spot check, HT had found that almost of the entire stretch of the river — from its eastern bank to the western bank — was blocked by construction and demolition waste and soil leaving only a few metres for the river to pass through, like a trickle.

A senior official of the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation Ltd (DTTDC), the government agency which was responsible for constructing the bridge, however, said: “No fresh debris was dumped into the river. Before the EC was given, we had constructed more than 30 temporary structures and the foundation was laid. These are being demolished and the debris is being removed on a priority basis.”

Point number eight of the ‘specific conditions’ of the EC states: “Project proponent shall take appropriate measures so that river flow is not obstructed during the construction phase and operation.”

The HT report had mentioned how the river’s flow has almost been stopped and the Yamuna appeared to be a stagnant pool of waste-water just beyond (upstream) the Signature Bridge.

“We can clearly see that the river’s flow has been obstructed by the bund-like structure that has been formed by dumping of construction and demolition waste. This is a clear violation of the EC,” said Vikrant Tongad, an activist who had moved the National Green Tribunal in 2014. It was after hearing his case that the NGT had directed the authorities to get the EC from the SEIAA.

The DTTDC official, who was closely associated with the Wazirabad Bridge Project, later renamed the Signature Bridge, however, said: “The width of the river at that point is 251 metres. No permanent pillar has been built on this stretch. So the river is not obstructed. Only temporary pillars were built, which have now been demolished. We will remove the demolition debris before the 2019 monsoon.”

Experts said non-compliance of the EC conditions hasn’t been monitored because the SEIAA has been non-functional for almost a year now.

“The dumping is a clear violation of the EC conditions and safeguards suggested by the Delhi SEIAA. This non-compliance has not been monitored as the Delhi SEIAA, which has powers to do it, has been non-operational over the past one year,” said Kanchi Kohli, a legal researcher with the Centre for Policy Research (CPR).

The DTTDC, however, maintained they have been regularly submitting quarterly reports to a cell, which was set up to monitor the compliance of the EC, with representatives from DTTDC, forest department, irrigation and flood control, the DDA and the DJB.

The last quarterly report was submitted on March 8, 2019.

“There were more than 90 conditions laid down in the EC. All but one condition, for which a study needs to be conducted by experts, has been met till date. The study report is expected by this month-end and the same would be submitted to the monitoring cell in the next quarterly report,” said Shishir Bansal, chief project manager of the Wazirabad Bridge Project.

Calls and messages to Delhi environment minister Imran Hussain went unanswered.

First Published: Apr 19, 2019 05:44 IST