Gurugram faces flood due to construction on Ghata lake, warns activists
Environmental activists have warned that rampant construction activity taking place on the bed of the Ghata lake, in the foothills of the Aravalli range, puts Gurugram at risk of severe flooding during the monsoon, besides causing widespread ecological damage in the region.
The Ghata lake bed serves as the floodplain for Li nullah, a storm water drain which enters Gurugram from Delhi via Gwal Pahari. From here, the waterway winds through the Aravalli hills for about 3km before emptying itself into at a low-lying catchment area in Ghata village, where it forms a lake. It then flows downstream into Gurugram for another 25km, where it is better known as the Badshahpur drain.
Backflow from the Badshahpur drain has been identified as the cause for flooding at Hero Honda Chowk and nearby areas resulting in massive traffic jams.
This network serves as the primary storm water drainage system of the city. Historically, lands around the Ghata lake were classified as ‘shamlat’ or community lands, and have been used for grazing, irrigation and groundwater recharge.
Rapid infrastructure development in the area since 2008 has reduced the size of Ghata lake from 300acres to less than 50acres. Moreover, the width of the Badshahpur drain has also been reduced to under 10 feet.
“At one point, the drain was anything between 40- to 100-feet-wide,” said environmental activist Vaishali Rana Chandra, explaining that a wider canal was needed to prevent waterlogging.
In the Gurugram-Manesar Master Plan of 1995, the drain and check dam are marked very clearly.?However, in the updated 2031 Master Plan, the catchment and submergence areas have been marked for development of Sectors 58 to 67.
In a rejoinder to a 2017 petition, filed before the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for restoration of the water network, the DTCP (department of town and country planning) has referred to the drain as a “nuisance for further development of these sectors”.
As on date, the DTCP has issued licences to at least four realtors for developing residential, commercial and recreational structures on land reserved for Sectors 58 to 67.
Chandra said the Master Plan shows scant regard for the ecological function of the land.
“The authorities are allowing developers to actively change the topography of the landscape, and this may cause flooding not just in areas like Gwal Pahari, but also Gurugram.?It will certainly affect the already depleting groundwater table,” he said.
According to activist Sharmila Kaushik, the Ghata lake area also falls under the jurisdiction of the forest department, making any non-forest activities on the land liable to prosecution as per the Indian Forest Act, 1920, and Forest Conservation Act, 1980. A signboard, erected on an embankment, confirms this.
However, Deepak Nanda, district forest officer (Gurugram), clarified that only the Ghata embankment area fell under the jurisdiction of the forest department. “The remaining land has been sectioned off by the Haryana urban development authority (Huda) for upcoming development projects,”?Nanda said.
“This area (Ghata lake) is of extreme significance for the local ecology,” said environment activist Vivek Khamboj. Though the lake is currently dry, it fills up during the monsoon and helps replenish the groundwater table.
“Gurugram has already been listed as a black zone by the Central Groundwater Board. Therefore, it is important to protect the area from further (rampant) urbanisation so that rainwater we receive this monsoon can percolate into the soil,” Khamboj said, adding that failing to do this would lead to desertification.
Khamboj also said that continued urbanisation would accentuate possible damage in the event of an earthquake.
“As it is, the area falls in an earthquake-prone zone. If we let the groundwater dry up, the soil will lose its natural cushion and exposing the infrastructure to greater risk of collapse,” he explained.
The Huda and DTCP did not respond to multiple calls and text messages for their comment on the matter.