Tata Camelot housing project: Delhi HC order a wake-up call for Chandigarh authorities
Six private security men in two shifts stand guard at an otherwise deserted 52 acres site of Tata Camelot housing project in the heart of Sukhna Lake’s catchment at Kansal village in Punjab’s Nayagaon area.
A guard on duty said some time back a ‘vastu’ expert visited the site to suggest changes to the project’s construction plan. But even this effort could not stall the Delhi high court’s Wednesday orders that set aside the environmental clearance given to the project and directed the promoters to seek a fresh clearance under the Centre’s category-A projects. These projects have stringent yardsticks and the existing construction plans of Tata Camelot may not get a go-ahead.
While Tata Housing Development Company Limited has not made an official statement so far, a local property dealer, Jaswant Singh, questioned when a lot of construction had already taken place at Kansal, what was the issue with the Tata project, which would have been a boon for the area. This is where the fault lines lie.
Over the past many years, the Punjab government and Nayagaon municipal committee allowed massive construction in Sukhna Lake’s ecologically sensitive area and even gave environmental clearance to Tata’s project. The UT administration hardly objected, despite knowing well that mushrooming of housing projects and population influx would not only put pressure on the lake’s catchment but also compromise the city’s original character. Sukhna Lake is already in crisis due to meagre rainfall in its catchment.
‘WOULD HAVE FUELLED RAMPANT GROWTH’
Several real estate projects have already come up in and around Kansal, although the construction has not gone beyond two-to-three-storeyed buildings. Apart from this, there are independent lavish houses of the “who’s who”, for whom the area is a perfect setting to spend their life in the backdrop of Shivalik hills.
The biggest concern, however, was the Tata project site. Locals said a large chunk of vacant land around the project was already bought by real estate sharks and influential people and they were waiting for it to pass the judicial scrutiny in order to start work on their own projects.
City-based advocate Ajay Jagga said in case the court had given its nod to Tata Camelot’s high-rise buildings, it would have been a disaster for the Sukhna catchment as a lot of other housing projects were in queue for construction.
“What the UT has failed to understand is that Le Corbusier envisioned the city as a human body with the Capitol Complex, which falls in the Sukhna catchment, being its head. It kept silent even when the city was being tampered with right at the top,” he said.
Jagga said the Delhi HC order should make UT officers crack a whip on illegal constructions in the Sukhna’s catchment, frame stringent rules in consultation with the Centre and Punjab government and make sure that no such activity takes place without its sanction.
“They should also try to protect the area’s periphery bordering Haryana,” he said.
Kansal villagers, however, have their reservations. An ex-councillor, who did not want to be named, said the promoters had paid more than Rs 9 crore to the Nayagaon municipal committee as part of development charges to improve the roads. The entire area would have seen massive development if the project were to be allowed.
THE PROJECT SO FAR
Tata Housing Development Company Limited inked an agreement with Punjab MLAs’ Cooperative House Building Society for the mega township project in 2007. The Rs 1,800-crore venture, planned over 53.39 acres in Kansal village, was to have 2,100 flats.
After advocate Aalok Jagga filed a plea in the Punjab and Haryana high court, it issued notices to the company, Punjab government and UT administration, terming project as “disturbing state of rapid and unregulated urbanisation” in November 2010. In 2011, the HC ordered stay, but disposed of the PIL a few months later. The HC cleared decks for construction, following petitioners, including some retired judges, moved the SC in August 2013.
In October that year, the SC ordered status quo on the housing project, halting the ambitious construction plans. In April 2014, the apex court told the Delhi high court to adjudicate the dispute, which quashed the environmental clearance to the project on Wednesday.