DELHI: Okhla bird sanctuary was notified in 1990. Builders got land and sanctions post-2006. People bought flats, investing their life’s savings, only to realize at the last minute that the projects in Noida won’t get a completion certificate because of a recent NGT ruling marking as eco-sensitive the area around a 10-km radius of the sanctuary. The ball is now in the court of the UP govt and the MoEF. As buyers fret, TOI traces the genesis of the crisis that has affected thousands of people.
On April 3 this year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) passed an order that has put at risk the investments of some one lakh homebuyers in Noida. The NGT ruled that the area within a 10-km radius of the Okhla bird sanctuary be considered eco-sensitive. As a result, no new building in that area would get a completion certificate.
And this has come at a time when 1 lakh flats have already been built, 30,000 of them ready and waiting to be handed over.
Buyers are at their wits’ end, and so are the 40-odd builders who have projects in that area. Supertech chief RK Arora, who is also the president of Credai West UP, said, “All the buildings in Noida have been built on designated areas earmarked by the Noida Masterplan of 1976. The Okhla bird sanctuary was notified in 1990. Post that, there was no demarcation of an eco-sensitive zone. The Noida Authority has approved the buildings. All of them are legal constructions. How can a judgment be super-imposed on this development? If one were to reconsider all construction around the Okhla bird sanctuary within 10 km, we will need to raze all highrises all the way up to the Delhi High Court. All of Sector 18 with the existing and upcoming malls would also need to go.”
The builders lease-purchased the land from Noida Authority from 2006 onwards, long after the Okhla bird sanctuary was formally created under the Wildlife Act.
But in 2002, the National Wildlife Board had ruled that there ought to be demarcated eco-sensitive zones around sanctuaries. The UP government, however, paid no heed to this order. Land was sold, plans were sanctioned and apartments were built.
Then in October 2013, Noida based environmental activist Amit Kumar through advocate Gaurav Bansal moved a petition in NGT, seeking the imposition of an eco sensitive zone around the Okhla sanctuary .
To the shock and disbelief of both builders and home-buyers, the NGT said until the state worked out the eco-zone, the area around a 10-km radius of the Okhla sanctuary should be treated as eco-sensitive. So, no completion certificates will be granted to the builders until a designated ecozone is created around the area.
NGT reiterated this in a statement on April 3 this year. The matter came to a head when Jaypee Infratech approached NGT in April to get the necessary clearance prior to handing over flats to the buyers. They were turned down. Jaypee then challenged the NGT ruling in the Supreme Court.
But the Supreme Court sent the matter back to the UP government and the ministry of environment and forests, and asked them to work out a solution.
The UP government fixed an outline, but the National Wildlife Board rejected it. Gaurav Bansal, the petitioner in NGT, said, “In September 2013, the UP govern ment said the eco-sensitive zone will be fixed as a 1-km radius, but even this was affecting a number of real estate projects. This Janu ary they pruned it to a 100-metre radius, but the National Wildlife Board shot this down.”
The MoEF, meanwhile, at the SC’s instructions, has conclud ed a formal survey of the Okhla sanctuary.
But the buyers, many of whom have put in their life’s savings in these flats, are getting restless.
Amit Chauhan, who represents the Noida Flat Buyers Association, said, “What are we getting penal ized for? We are consumers, we invested our earnings in valid projects. We have appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to step in and ensure that a judgment doesn’t squash the dreams of thou sands of home buyers.”
“Too many people’s futures are at stake here. Instead of obstructing development, the builders and home buyers can become a party to the conservation of the sanctu ary, which is in a dismal state,” said Shweta Bharati, general sec retary of Noida Extension Flat Owners’ Welfare Association.
The chief wildlife warden of MoEF, AK Shukla, said, “We have surveyed the area. It is a process and we are trying to expedite it.
Till now, we have been able to sense the need for at least a 100-metre buffer zone around the sanctuary and at least a 1-km no-mining-area around it. But the final decision will only be taken after further detailed discussions, which will conclude soon.”
The buyers can only hope that soon is soon enough.