NOIDA: For thousands of buyers who invested in housing projects in Noida Extension, the past five years have been full of trepidation. With projects already delayed for over 2-3 years in most cases, the latest NGT order, restricting construction of 20-odd projects, affecting 80 towers—for not adhering to pollution control norms—has again put a spanner in their aspirations of possessing a home of their own.
For reasons beyond their control, having already paid up close to 80-90% of the value of the flat, these buyers are now in a Catch-22 situation—they can neither sell the apartments, nor hope to move in any time soon. There is no assurance about when the cloud would lift either.
This is not the first time under-construction apartments in Noida Extension (also known as Greater Noida West) have been affected by extraneous factors. Construction at several sites came to a halt in 2011, when a group of farmers challenged the process of acquisition of land in the area in Allahabad high court. Till today, the final order on the Noida Extension land acquisition remains pending with the Supreme Court.
"There is no end to buyers' woes. No bank is ready to finance Noida Extension projects. Some of us had approached a national bank, to shift loans we'd already taken to lower interest plans, but our applications were rejected. This clearly shows how uncertain properties in Noida Extension have become. We're already burdened with EMIs and rents. Now this delay. Why are we being victimized?" said Indrish Gupta, co-founder of Noida Extension flat owners welfare association.
"Stopping construction is not viable. The best NGT could have done was to enforce pollution control norms on builders. Pollution is a crucial factor, but the panel should see that buyers are not burdened by more delay," Markandey Mishra, convenor of NCR Home Buyers Group said.
However, the builder lobby denies they are at fault. "All builder projects commence with environmental clearances. Every six months, builders need to submit air quality reports with the pollution control board, failing which, our clearances would be seized. So we don't know the basis of this order. Builders are not responsible for dust on the roads. If roads are muddy or dust-laden, it is Noida Authority which should take the blame," said Manoj Gaur, MD, Gaursons, and president, CREDAI Western UP.
"Real estate activities strictly follow environment ministry guidelines and manual, which are part of the stringent clearances from the ministry and PCB. The industry was not given effective opportunity to place its version before the order was passed," said R K Arora, MD, Supertech.
Controlling construction site pollution is an issue plaguing Noida for long, said UPPCB regional officer (Noida) Atulesh Yadav. "Builders are conferred an EC based on norms they need to adhere to. Even if they can't always organise sophisticated equipment, they can easily access makeshift sprinklers to help the dust settle and mitigate air pollution around construction sites, which is a potential health hazard. Authorities should check this as well."