At instance of environmentalist NGOs, in July 2004 Supreme Court appointed Empowered Committee cleared a Malls and Biodiversity Park project, one of half dozen new projects jeopardizing Delhi Master Plan entitlements of existing communities, challenged since December 2003 in PIL based on their efforts since 2000. The inept NGO initiative led to eviction of a thousand families, while promise of inter-generational equity forcibly sold at price of intra-generational equity is belied by illegal boring, quarrying, etc, continuing on the project sites - with no NGO protest and regardless of citizens’ complaints.
Projects coming up in violation of development and environmental law at south-west apex of Delhi’s ridge-river triangle (Mehrauli-Mahipalpur area, notified by Central Ground Water Authority in 1999) include 56-Ha Sultangarhi project in Rangpuri Pahari, DDA Sports Complex and Delhi Government Institute for Liver and Billiary Sciences south of D2 Vasant Kunj, Delhi Government air-conditioned Mandi at Andheria Morh, additions to Vasant Kunj (all in DMP Green Belt / Ridge area in J-Zone, for which Zonal Plan has not been notified) and CISF housing in Mahipalpur Hauz and Malls and Biodiversity Park in area earmarked for sparse residential development / Vasant Kunj Ph 2 (all in F-Zone, for which Zonal Plan was notified in 1998). These are challenged in High Court in PIL seeking enforcement of DMP entitlements of existing communities and stopping of illegal projects jeopardizing them. The PIL is based on efforts since 2000 by citizens’ groups in the area synergizing on Master Plan Implementation Support Group (MPISG) that had led also to Delhi Science Forum’s PIL in which High Court, in its Sultangarhi judgment of 16.09.02, had ordered the project stopped and directed inquiry by DDA Chairman (Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, ex-officio) to deter authorities from themselves indulging in illegalities they are duty-bound to stop.
The current PIL was filed in December 2003 following advertisements for auction of sites for Vasant Kunj Malls, featuring the Biodiversity Park as USP. At the first hearing on 10.12.04, respondents alleged the petitioner represented the interests of rival Malls in Gurgaon, the court directed filing of an additional affidavit to spell out violations in detail, etc, and listed the matter for 17.12.04, when respondents again pleaded only the case for Malls (plots for which had been auctioned for an unprecedented 1100 crores on 15.12.04, cf, Express Newsline report1), conceding in the process that the Biodiversity Park involved a departure from statutory land use stipulations. The matter was adjourned to 24.03.04 without notice being issued. DDA VC moved on to become Home Secretary, earning kudos for various achievements including the record-breaking auction for Malls (cf, Times of India report2). For the Biodiversity Park, foundation stone was laid on 21.02.04 by then Lieutenant Governor (DDA Chairman) and four MPs, including three union ministers (cf, The Hindu report3).
Meanwhile, a politician had also approached High Court on 10.12.03 with a PIL against the Malls, which was dismissed and he had moved Supreme Court. In that PIL (based on earlier – ie, prior to F-Zone Plan and CGWA notifications – PIL in Supreme Court by environmentalist NGOs in which 92 Ha was somehow released from the purview of DMP in name of “constraint area”, a phrase devoid of basis in law, and parceled off for up-market commercial and institutional development) Supreme Court ordered on 08.03.04: “We are satisfied that the proposed Mall is on the area measuring 92 hectares of land, which has already been excluded by the order of this Court on 19th August, 1997. In that view of the matter, we do not find any merit in this petition. It is accordingly, dismissed. However, this order will not preclude the petitioner from availing any remedy, which may be available to him under law”. On 24.03.04 respondents argued that the PIL in High Court had been settled by this Supreme Court order, of which they did not have a copy, and the matter was adjourned to 19.05.04, when it could not be heard and was listed for 04.08.04.
On 27.05.04 the UPA government adopted the NCMP, with promise of no forcible evictions and on 31.05.04 offer-cum-demand letters / eviction notices began to be distributed to some of the thousand odd families in decades old settlements on the site of Biodiversity Park. Following a demolition threat to them, twenty MPISG groups representing 5000 families in the area made on 04.07.04 a joint demand with specific suggestion for their statutory DMP housing solution (seeking stopping of either the Sultangarhi project or the Biodiversity Park project, though demolition of the Sahara Restaurant of the DDA scam fame, occupying an EWS housing site and eviction of power-of-attorney purchasers being offered freehold options in other EWS housing are other legal options open to them under DMP). Another letter to protest illegal resettlement was sent on 07.07.04 following news report of deaths of children in Bawana4, where those being evicted for illegal Biodiversity Park were being offered sub-standard resettlement.
On 12.07.04 complaints, with photographs, of start of illegal boring on site of Malls were lodged. As more boring rigs were spotted there, further complaint, with pictures, was made on 23.07.04. Meanwhile, deep excavation, boring, etc, for Delhi Government’s Liver Institute in DMP Green Belt also began (cf, Times of India report5), site preparation for its Mandi project in DMP ridge park was also going on, its garden (grabbing DMP ridge park land where the Biodiversity Park grabbing DMP housing land could have been) was honoured with an award from Indian Buildings Congress (of which Union Urban Development Minister is Chief Patron, MoUD Secretary is patron, DDA Commissioner (Planning) is Vice President, etc) and it allotted land to an NGO in DMP ridge / protected forest (cf, The Hindu report6).
Amidst all this, environmentalist NGOs involved in the Supreme Court PIL in which 92 Ha got released from the purview of DMP petitioned Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee for declaring the Biodiversity Park project, etc, area as forest (cf, Express Newsline report7). MPISG, in letter of 20.07.04 to CEC, drew its attention to the PIL in High Court and in letter of 21.07.04 to DDA Chairman (LG) with reference to the NGO-CEC initiative sought inquiry as per order of 16.09.02 for Sultangarhi, the Malls-Park project being case of perpetuation of identical illegalities. On 26.07.04, when CEC was to have heard the NGO application as per news reports, in the evening old communities in up-coming Biodiversity Park were informed of demolition that was effected on 29.07.04, regardless of citizens’ efforts to solicit intervention of high and empowered offices in view of statutory, judicial and parliamentary processes by which they were engaging for durable solutions and which were frustrated by the precipitate demolition.
On 04.08.04 in High Court, respondents produced the Supreme Court order of 08.03.04 to insist it had settled the PIL in High Court and the court expressed inability to intervene in that case. (The respondents made no reference to CEC, although letter of 20.07.04 to it had been copied to them and at least some of them would have appeared before it on 26.07.04, and in letter of 04.08.04 to CEC, with copy again to all respondents and also others, MPISG sought hearing and a copy of the NGO petition to place in High Court). On the petitioner’s contention that the PIL related to several projects on different grounds, High Court asked for pleadings of the Supreme Court matter but passed no order. The PIL was listed for sixth hearing on 22.09.04. Work, rather quarrying, on the Malls site commenced on 04.08.04 itself and within a few days fleets of trucks began removing china clay, sand, murram and boulders (in violation of Supreme Court restrictions on ridge quarrying).
Two weeks later, a news report about Yamuna Biodiversity Park8 (being promoted, also in DMP violation, by the same environmentalists NGOs promoting the ridge Park) suggested CEC had cleared the ridge Biodiversity Park, about which was requested clarification from the editor9. (No clarification was forthcoming, but a follow-up story10 on 24.08.04 reported approval in principle to a project for golf course, hotels, shopping arcade, mall, food court, cinemaplex and entertainment centre, etc, at the lake two kilometers from the riverbed Park, while another reported the environmentalist NGOs were making furore11 about lack of participation, accountability, etc, in clearances to riverbed violations – other than, besides the Parks they promote, on-going Metro Property Development (subject of Public Notices), etc – all benefiting from Pushta clearance.
Work on Sultangarhi project also re-started and in letter of 25.08.04 to Secretary MoUD s.41 directions for stoppage and inquiry in compliance of order of 2002 were sought (yet again), pending the inquiry ordered by the court, making public the outcome of Public Notice process by which over 1700 families in the area had objected to the project in 2002, hearing of representations made in 2003 in response to Standing Parliamentary Committee invitation of public views after DDA scam, adjudication of related matters being heard by the court, appropriate action by MoUD on four letters forwarded by the President, etc.
It was also learnt that amendment of 07.07.04 to EIA notification of 199412 had included new construction projects among those requiring Environmental Impact Assessment and environmental clearance through process of expert scrutiny and public hearing for various projects. Five of the projects (including Mall and Biodiversity Park project) challenged in the PIL seem to require clearance as per the amended notification, even as neither the respondents nor the reportage about the NGO petition to CEC had mentioned this. Letter of 01.09.04 requested clarification from Secretary MoEF in the context of the PIL. Letter of 06.09.04 reiterated the request with reference to draft national environment policy13 and an Express Newsline report14 about (same) environmentalist NGOs calling for greater participation, etc. (Copy of) a letter of 15.09.04 reiterated the request with reference to Delhi government’s views of illegality and environment apropos industries. In an e-mail to the address for comments on the draft policy a request for text in html or doc format was requested to be able to comment about absence of any reference to planning and development law and its subversion, etc.
MPISG letter of 07.07.04 was forwarded by Central Vigilance Commission to DDA as per letter of 06.09.04. The same, as enclosure in frantic letter of 28.07.04, had been forwarded on 03.08.04 to Secretary MoUD by President for appropriate action and on 24.08.04 to PS to Urban Development Minister by National Advisory Council. The MPISG letter of 07.07.04 was about deaths of children in Bawana and children then facing eviction to it for illegal Biodiversity Park and Malls, children who got evicted on 29.07.04 within a fortnight of empowered NGO-petitioning that beat their petitions to make them infructuous.
On 22.09.04 – at sixth hearing, over nine months after the PIL was filed – High Court issued notice to respondents to file reply and advised letters to them about further illegalities. Letter of 23.09.04 was accordingly written. The matter is listed for 01.12.04.
Gita Dewan Verma | Planner | 24.09.2004
- 1. source: http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=70789
- 2. Anil Baijal new Home Secy
NEW DELHI: Anil Baijal, vice-chairman of Delhi Development Authority (DDA), will take over as Union home secretary next month.
A 1969 IAS (UT cadre) batch officer, Baijal will succeed N Gopalaswami who has been transferred as a member of the Election Commission. The transfer was expected as the vice-chairman had been promoted to the rank of secretary. Baijal has held prime posts in Delhi including chairman and managing director of Indian Airlines and CEO of Prasar Bharati.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/453640.cms (Retrieved 17th August, 2013)
- 3. Foundation of biodiversity park laid
By Our Staff Reporter
NEW DELH1, FEB. 22. The foundation stone of the 277 hectares Aravali Biodiversity Park, which will preserve the extinct biotic communities found earlier in the Aravali Ranges, was laid by the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, here in Vasant Kunj on Saturday.
http://www.hindu.com/2004/02/23/stories/2004022308690400.htm (Retrieved 17th August, 2013)
- 4. Unsettled life in Bawana resettlement colony
By Bindu Shajan Perappadan
NEW DELHI, JULY 5 . As many as 17 people, including 12 children, have died here in the Bawana resettlement colony -- where people from the Yamuna Pushta area were recently relocated -- in a matter of three months, reportedly due to waterborne diseases and unhygienic living conditions.
http://www.hindu.com/2004/07/06/stories/2004070609450400.htm (Retrieved 17th August, 2013)
- 5. Construction of liver institute at VK begins
NEW DELHI: After a three-month long legal wrangle, work on the 280-bed Institute of Liver and Billiary Sciences at Vasant Kunj, has been finally started.
The state government had sanctioned the Rs 40-crore project in August last year. The tender process, however got stalled in March when the contractor approached court, reportedly over a clause in the tender that it had to be allocated within six months.
http://www1.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/articleshow?msid=757252 (Retrieved 17th August, 2013)
- 6. Deal signed for conservation centre
By Our Staff Reporter
NEW DELHI, JUNE 19. The Forest and Wildlife Department of the Delhi Government has entered into an agreement with the Bombay Natural History Society for setting up a Conservation Education Centre at Asola-Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in South Delhi.
The agreement was penned by the Conservator of Forests, A.K. Sinha, and the Director of BNHS, Asad R. Rahmani, in the presence of the Delhi Forest and Wildlife Minister, Raj Kumar Chauhan, who informed that the Delhi Government will provide the land as well as grant-in-aid of Rs 38.42 lakhs through the Forest Department to BNHS - the oldest NGO to run this centre - for the project.
http://www.hindu.com/2004/06/20/stories/2004062008230300.htm (Retrieved 17th August, 2013)
- 7. source: http://cities.expressindia.com/archivefullstory.php?newsid=91154&creation_date=2004-07-13
- 8. source: http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=95747
- 9. source: http://mail.architexturez.net/pipermail/mpisgmedia/2004-August/000129.html
- 10. source: http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=96633
- 11. Furore over riverbed reclamation move
By Anjali Dhal Samanta
NEW DELHI, AUG. 22. Concerned about the health of the Yamuna, environmentalists are up in arms over the permission granted to the Delhi Development Authority for "reclamation'' of certain parts of the riverbed - which supposedly includes the area chalked out for the fast upcoming Akshardham Temple -- by the Yamuna Standing Committee.
http://www.hindu.com/2004/08/23/stories/2004082308500400.htm (Retrieved 17th August, 2013)
- 12. MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT AND FORESTS, NOTIFICATION
http://envfor.nic.in/legis/eia/so801(e).htm (Retrieved 17th August, 2013)
- 13. source: http://envfor.nic.in/nep.htm
- 14. source: http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=98136