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Wildlife panel rules against construction of big projects in Delhi

LiveMint logoLiveMint 14-09-2017 Mayank Aggarwal

New Delhi: Expressing concern over high pollution in Delhi, while batting for conservation of the ridge area as the lung of the mega city, the apex wildlife panel of India has ruled against big projects in future that are not specific to the national capital.

The remarks came while the panel was hearing issues related to wildlife clearance for construction of a Central Armed Police Forces Institute of Medical Science (CAPFIMS) along with several other allied institutes, whose site is just 200 metres away from the Asola Bhatti Wildlife Sanctuary in the national capital.

The project was discussed by the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) at a meeting on 4 September. NBWL is the apex wildlife body of India and is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while its standing committee is headed by Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan.

The proposal was recommended clearance by the standing committee during its meeting on 2 March earlier this year. Subsequently, the user agency (the ministry of home affairs which is developing this project) requested “to waive deposit of 5% of total project cost for undertaking soil-moisture conservation work” and the demand was considered during the committee’s meeting on 27 June.

The committee had then asked experts to visit the site and submit a report, which was then considered during the panel’s 4 September meeting.

The experts, in their report, refused to waive the condition of depositing 5% of total project cost for undertaking soil-moisture conservation work and improvement of wildlife habitat in the Asola wildlife sanctuary, but lowered it to 2%.

According to the minutes of the 4 September meeting, which were reviewed by Mint, the standing committee recommended several measures for the project that were suggested by the experts.

The experts called for 10-foot-high boundary walls so that waste can’t be thrown over the wall into the sanctuary and stated that biomedical waste generated from the hospital should be disposed 5km away from the boundary of the sanctuary.

“Thick green belt of native plant species should be developed in the maximum available patch to buffer air/sound/water pollution inside the sanctuary. And the green belt should be declared as out-of-bound for the staff/public use,” the report added.

NBWL’s standing committee also noted the view of the experts that Delhi as a mega city is already facing huge pollution load and such projects not specific to the national capital will only add to the pressure.

“The project is not specific to the capital city and it is for the personnel of the armed police force from different parts of the country. Delhi is already over populated and suffers from the increasing pollution load. Construction of such institute may result into visit of personnel of arm forces, their relatives. As a result, the traffic on Delhi roads, pollution in air and the waste on ground will further increase the existing pollution level. This will add to traffic and environmental burden to a highly polluted mega-city,” the experts said.

The experts further posed a question, “Can’t authority think of constructing such institute in B-class city properly located in the country?”

The experts also said in future such projects should not be constructed in Delhi and said that “the ridge forests and its surrounding areas should be preserved and improved as lung of the mega-city”.

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