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GMDA ignored objection to roads by own division

MD Sinha, head of the urban environment division, had written to the NHAI chairman as early as January, specifying his department’s concerns over what the project would do to the area’s ecology.

gurgaon Updated: May 08, 2019 09:14 IST
Prayag Arora-Desai
Prayag Arora-Desai
Gurugram
GMDA,Gurugram,NHAI
In reviving its proposal to build twin link roads through the Aravalli Biodiversity (ABP) Park—as part of the Gurugram-Manesar connectivity project, which will involve constructing a six-lane highway through the ABD Park, the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has ignored various objections put forth internally by its urban environment division.

In reviving its proposal to build twin link roads through the Aravalli Biodiversity (ABP) Park—as part of the Gurugram-Manesar connectivity project, which will involve constructing a six-lane highway through the ABD Park, the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA) has ignored various objections put forth internally by its urban environment division. This was revealed in correspondences exchanged between the National Highways Authority of India and the GMDA (copies of which are with HT) and senior officials in the agency.

The decision to revive the project, which was kept in abeyance after widespread outrage from citizens last year, was taken up at a meeting between NHAI and GMDA on March 27.

NHAI project director Ashok Sharma confirmed this meeting was convened to discuss the project afresh and settle issues that had arisen due to original alignment through the Park. In the minutes of the meeting, it is noted, “Rajbir Singh, advisor, urban environment, GMDA, has raised the issue of environmental concerns arising from the proposed alignment passing through the Aravalli Biodiversity Park”. However, it goes on to state that Singh did not specify the exact nature of these concerns.

This, multiple GMDA officials said, is not true. MD Sinha, head of the urban environment division, had written to the NHAI chairman as early as January, specifying his department’s concerns over what the project would do to the area’s ecology. “The Park and the forest comprise an ecologically important green island surrounded by concrete jungles from all sides and must not be damaged,” Sinha wrote. “Further, as ‘deemed forest’ under the dictionary meaning, the entire area may require prior approval of the competent authority under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980,” he added.

With this in mind, the GMDA’s urban environment division also suggested five alternative routes which would achieve the same intended purpose as the proposed highway—of increasing connectivity with the Southen Peripheral Road leading to Manesar.

According to a senior GMDA official in know of the matter, “These routes were discounted without any serious consideration or any studies to ascertain their feasibility.” Rajbir Singh, GMDA’s advisor for urban environment, could not be contacted for comment on Tuesday. GMDA chief executive officer V Umashankar, on the other hand, declined to provide a comment. “I have nothing to say in the matter,” he said.

All of the alternative routes proposed by Sinha’s division were informally ruled out during the March 27 meeting as they “would not address the existing traffic congestion at Sirhaul border and would further enhance congestion at Shankar Chowk,” as per the minutes.

“This is a rather large undertaking to decongest just two spots in the city which can be done through other means,” the officer clarified.

The official added, “Time and again, the point has been raised that the road, as per the NHAI’s original proposal, will not serve any practical purpose, especially as we have the Regional Rapid Transit System coming up, which will ply on the same route to improve connectivity between Manesar and Gurugram. In any case, there are multiple other road options that can be explored to enhance mobility between Delhi-Gurugram-Manesar.”

Speaking to HT on Tuesday, Sinha said, “The urban environment division has raised concerns regarding preservation of green areas, which are rapidly declining in Gurugram. The road design should avoid as much of the green area as possible, if not the whole thing.”

The latest instructions given to the NHAI by the GMDA, however, suggest that the park and it’s ecology will be affected by the project. “We are waiting for the NHAI to revise its proposal, which will hopefully take into account the urban environment division’s inputs,” Sinha added.

Not only has the GMDA, so far, ignored these internal suggestions, it has also cast aside appeals made by MCG commissioner Yashpal Yadav and scores of citizens in Gurugram and Delhi. In November last year, Yadav wrote to the GMDA CEO seeking a detailed traffic survey to justify the need for this road, which is yet to be provided. Yadav also pointed out the presence of various other mobility projects, including the RRTS, Eastern Peripheral Way and Western Peripheral Way which can serve the same purpose.

Following protests, state minister for forests Rao Narbir Singh had written to NHAI requesting the proposed route be realigned to preserve the park’s ecology.

Sarvadaman Oberoi, a city-based legal activist, said, “It seems like the authorities have now made a u-turn on their promises. The worry now is exactly how much of the park will be laid to waste for this superfluous ‘development’ project.”

First Published: May 08, 2019 01:39 IST