By Anumeha Yadav
Move comes Uttar Pradesh’s January proposal to notify 100 m around sanctuary
Echoing the Uttar Pradesh Government’s proposal in January to notify 100 metres around the Okhla Bird Sanctuary as “eco-sensitive zone”, the Delhi Government’s Forest Department is set to propose the same.
As per a directive issued by the National Board for Wildlife (NBW) in 2005, a radius of 10 km around sanctuaries — which in the instance of Okhla will affect a number of proposed real estate projects — is to be considered an eco-sensitive zone.
State governments were asked to notify their own norms for the same, but the Uttar Pradesh Government had not done so till last year. Officials said an eco-sensitive zone of 100 m will be sufficient to protect the instant sanctuary.
“The sanctuary primarily comprises a water body, and for that a radius of 100 m will be sufficient. We have proposed 100 m and received some suggestions from the Wildlife Institute of India, which we are in the process of considering. The National Capital Region Planning Board has outlined conservation plans for the area, which we follow,” said a senior official in the Forest Department.
Both the State Governments’ proposals will go to the Ministry of Environment and Forest, which will invite suggestions at the time of the preliminary notification. If 100 m is accepted, it will make the proposal and the decision relevant to Uttar Pradesh and Delhi alone, as the proposed eco-sensitive zone will not fall within Haryana’s boundary. The process of preliminary and final notification by the Ministry may take two to three months, said the official.
The eco-sensitive zone will comprise three zones — prohibited, permitted and regulated zones, with different norms for noise levels, etc., permitted.
Last month, the Supreme Court had dismissed the plea of Jaypee Infrastructure, one of over 40 developers whose projects will be affected if an area in a 10 km radius is accepted as an eco-sensitive zone, against a 2013 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).
The Okhla Bird Sanctuary was notified as a “protected area” by the Uttar Pradesh Government in 1990. The NBW had in 2005 said that delineation of eco-sensitive zone will be site specific “and regulatory in nature rather than prohibitory”.
Till 2012, despite an order by the Ministry, Uttar Pradesh had not notified the radius of the eco-sensitive zone around the sanctuary.
In October 2013, after a petition was filed by Amit Kumar, the NGT had passed orders that no construction activity will be permitted within 10 km radius of the sanctuary. It had added that for projects already completed, construction shall be subject to the final order passed by the Tribunal and that the authority shall not give any completion certificate to such buildings. For buildings half-way through, construction was allowed to continue, subject to final order by the NGT.
In its April 2014 orders, the Tribunal said that any decision taken by the government was subject to the final decision of the Supreme Court in a 2004 public interest litigation — Goa Foundation vs. Union of India case. At present, no new projects within 10 km radius of the sanctuary can be cleared unless the NBW gives a no-objection certificate, and that the same will continue till the final notification is made in this matter.
“We will welcome any decision that will allow sustainable development,” said Gaurav Bansal, the petitioner’s lawyer in the NGT case.