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Ridge board approved 39 projects since 2015: Report

May 18, 2024 06:02 AM IST

Ridge Management Board in Delhi approved 39 projects since 2015, diverting over 300 hectares for construction, raising concerns about Ridge area conservation.

The Ridge Management Board (RMB) in Delhi has given its approval to 39 projects to be built in the Ridge areas in the Capital since 2015, with over 300 hectares of land being diverted for construction, Central Empowered Committee (CEC), appointed by the Supreme Court, has informed the top court in a report on the Ridge.

In 2015, a single proposal of diverting 35 hectares of central Ridge land to build 15 rain shelters at Buddha Jayanti Park (central Ridge) was approved by the Ridge Management Board. (HT Photo)
In 2015, a single proposal of diverting 35 hectares of central Ridge land to build 15 rain shelters at Buddha Jayanti Park (central Ridge) was approved by the Ridge Management Board. (HT Photo)

The report, which was submitted to the apex court on May 9, informs these projects were cleared by RMB and shared with CEC for final approval, which included diversion of 20 hectares for a waste-to-energy plant at Tehkhand, 6.55 hectares for the construction of a new building of the Indian Institute of Mass Communication near Asaf Ali Marg and 5.3 hectares to build a skill centre at Jaunapur.

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In its report, CEC flagged concerns over diversion of nearly 4% of the total Ridge area for non-forestry purposes, stating all this has occurred in the last nine years, since 2015.

The Supreme Court on the same day described the entire situation a “shocking state of affairs” and sought responses from the Centre and Delhi government on not just diversion, but also on why 5% remained under encroachment and nearly 99% was still not yet notified under section 20 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927.

“The diversion for non-forest land is also gradually increasing. In the last five years, it was 183.8 hectares, as compared to 117.9 hectares in the earlier five-year period. The total figure from 2015 onwards stands at 301.8 hectares, which is around 4% of Delhi’s Ridge area,” the report stated.

RMB was formed following a Delhi high court order in 1995 in the MC Mehta vs. Union of India & others case and any permission for construction or development work in the Ridge areas — central Ridge, northern Ridge, south Central Ridge and southern Ridge — has to be first cleared by this board. The body is also the custodian of the geo-morphological ridge, which are areas that show “Ridge-like” features. The final project proposal has to be approved by the Supreme Court and CEC.

The report stated that 14 meetings of RMB have been held since 2015, with 37 construction projects with an area of 263.4 hectares approved in these meetings. Another two road or wire-laying projects with a total length of 38.4 kilometre were also approved. “For a linear stretch, if the average breadth is considered as 10 metres, then 38.4 km will be equivalent to 38.4 hectares and take the total area to 301.8 hectares,” the report added.

In 2015, a single proposal of diverting 35 hectares of central Ridge land to build 15 rain shelters at Buddha Jayanti Park (Central Ridge) was approved by RMB. In 2016, only one proposal, a pipeline project over 0.6 hectares was approved. In 2017, seven projects were approved over two different meetings, which included the construction of an international crafts complex at Vasant Kunj (0.71 hectare), the Tehkhand WtE (20 hectare) and the construction of a South Asian University (SAU) building in Maidangarhi over 6.2 hectares. In 2018, seven more projects were approved over two meetings and in 2019, four projects were approved, the largest being a skill centre at Jaunapur over 15.2 hectares.

In 2020, no meetings were held due to Covid-19 and in 2021, RMB gave permission to another seven projects. In 2022, four projects were approved and last year, the highest – eight projects were given approval on its end.

Bhavreen Kandhari, an environmental activist, said the report highlights what people have been suspecting all along. “RMB was formed to protect the Ridge, but it is doing the opposite. Permissions, if any, should be given in exceptional cases. Here, these are being given in almost every case,” she said.

HT reached out to the forest department and RMB, but did not get any response to requests for comments.

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