Greater Noida builders in red over green violations?

August 7th, 2011 - 5:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Greater Noida, Aug 7 (IANS) Even as the face-off between farmers and the Greater Noida authority over land compensation persists, the latter has once again come in the line of fire — this time on the environment front.

Agitated farmers allege that builders in and around Noida Extension have caused “irreversible” damage to the environment. They say the intense construction activities have led to mass extinction of peacocks that were once found in abundance in all the 11 villages of Noida Extension.

Likewise, Bisrakh and Itehra villages — once known for housing endangered species of snakes — now sport a deserted look.

“There was a time when you could spot peacocks on any tree while sitting in any house of the village. But now there are hardly any,” complained Ranbir Nagar, convenor of the Gramin Panchayat Morcha, to IANS.

“The entire habitat has been destroyed by builders due to noise and air pollution. The whole area was once rich in biodiversity. But the sudden, haphazard construction activity has led to the extinction of the entire local fauna,” said Nagar, a resident of Sadullapur village.

Moreover, people living in the area are facing respiratory problems like asthma — thanks to the dust choking their lungs.

“There are trucks and dumpers plying the whole day and night. Little children are affected. There are no developed roads also…there’s just no end to it,” said Shyam Lal, a resident of Roja Yaqoobpur village.

Besides, the Greater Noida Authority has even sold off Gram Sabha or village community lands in villages like Patwadi and Itehera to private builders.

The ponds, wetlands and cattle grasslands that existed on these lands have vanished altogether. Several ponds in the area have dried up or have been filled up by the builders, which is in stark violation of Supreme Court orders, farmers said.

According to the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006, each housing project, measuring over 20,000 sq ft of area, has to seek environmental clearance by the Expert Appraisal Committee of the environment ministry.

An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) is also mandatory for each of the project proponent — builder.

However, none of the nearly 60-odd builders in the area who purchased lands in excess of 20,000 sq ft sought any environmental clearances from the centre, locals say.

The farmers have written to Forests and Environment Minister Jayanti Natarajan, the chief conservator of forests, the ministry’s central zone at Lucknow and the state chief secretary, apprising them on the issue.

“It’s a blatant violation of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, Environment Protection Act 1986 and Biodiversity Act 2002, apart from other anomalies. We want these projects to be scrapped altogether. They have ruined the whole area. It is not development, but destruction,” said Ranbir Nagar.

“If the government will not act, we will approach the court on the issue as it is a very sensitive issue concerning the lives of several thousand villagers of the area and our future generations,” Nagar said.

The locals claimed that several hundred trees of pristine nature that included palm varieties — some as old as 300 years — have been axed by the builders while the authority remained mute spectators.

The Mahagun builders had forcibly acquired 100- bigha land of a trust that had a dense Indian gooseberry grove with about 400 trees in Shahberi village, whose land acquisition was quashed by the Supreme Court July 6.

“It is the responsibility of the district forest department to ensure there are no environmental violations, but they just sit and watch silently. It seems they do not want to act altogether,” Jeet Singh Nagar, a resident of Saini village, told IANS.

When asked to comment, Gautam Budh Nagar District Forest Officer B. Prabhakar said: “We are helpless. We cannot go against the state policies. We have received their complaint, but it is beyond our powers.”

“We cannot create any hurdle in the projects cleared by the state. The farmers should go to the Central Empowered Committee.”

(S.P. Singh can be contacted at spsinghg@gmail.com)

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