On Monday, the Supreme Court will decide whether work on the Rs 685-crore (Rs 6,850 million) Bhim Rao Ambedkar Memorial Park in Noida should be allowed to go on, pending clearances from the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
For now, the dice seem loaded against the park — temporarily, at least — after a fact-finding expert panel appointed by the court concluded that the project lacked mandatory central environmental clearances and recommended the Supreme Court stop its construction.
The report of the Central Empowered Committee (CEC), a copy of which is with HT, states that the “project requires environmental clearance” under the MoEF’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of September 14, 2006.
The panel has recommended that the “Uttar Pradesh (UP) state government should be directed to seek the environmental clearance for the present project from the MoEF in terms of the (EIA) notification… If the project is found by the MoEF to be environmentally viable, it may allow the project subject to the appropriate safeguards/conditions.”
The report pointedly states, “pending the environmental clearances, no further works should be carried out.”
Lawyer Jayant Bhushan, who represented Anand Arya and Kanan Jaswal, petitioners against the project, said, “It is a big victory, for now… we expect the Supreme Court would formally stay the construction work at the project site on Monday.”
An MoEF probe, initiated after HT first reported on the suspected irregularities on July 5, had on July 10 established the project’s violation of the EIA notification on two counts.
The project lacked an EIA certificate although it lay barely 100 metres from the centrally-protected Okhla Bird Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (OBPWS).
Under rules, a new construction project within 10 km of such a preserve requires environmental clearance.
The project also lacked the mandatory certificate for construction spread over an area exceeding 20,000 square metres, even though the park’s construction activities were spread over approximately 3.25 lakh square metres.
The CEC rejected the arguments of the UP government and the Noida authority that the project did not need clearances under the EIA notification.
The CEC also found: “had the state government decided eco-sensitive areas around national parks and sanctuaries”, as required of it by a ministry directive pending for four years, “the project area in all probability would have fallen within the eco-sensitive zone.”
The CEC report, however, established that the project area does not fall in the category of forest and does not require approval under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980. The project had uprooted around 6,003 trees.