On the day the Supreme Court refused to intervene in the UP governments drive to erect statues of Mayawati and other Dalit leaders at a Noida park,the Union Environment and Forests Ministry sent a team to probe alleged violations in the state government-promoted structure over 33 hectares in the area.
The team,led by a senior Indian Forest Service officer,found that 6,000 trees have been felled for the project. Moreover,the Uttar Pradesh government also gave a go-by to an Environment Impact Assessment,mandatory for a project of this size.
Environment Impact Assessments are required for all projects bigger than 20,000 square metres. It is also required under a higher Grade-A category for any project to be built within 10 kilometres of a protected area in this case,the structures are a stones throw away from the Okhla bird sanctuary.
The Home Minister had called to enquire on the projects status and whether it had obtained various clearances, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh told Newsline. We have also received several complaints on the issue and have thus launched an investigation.
I am now waiting for the report to come in.
The state government had given the green signal to fell trees for the project that dominates the view on both sides of the Atta Market flyover in Noida. But the high density of trees 6,000 over 33 hectares means the area was a deemed forest. In Uttar Pradesh,if there are 50 trees per hectare,it is classified as forest area, a senior member of the ministry team said.
The first look in Friday was the first time the media was allowed inside the high-walled,gated structure: Newsline found that nearly the entire area,created after razing a green belt,has been concretised. And though UP government officials call the structure a park,barely a fifth of the entire area is now under grass cover.
Boards of restricted area hang all around,and any visitor is pushed out as work progresses at great speed. While a gigantic statue though still covered,it appears to be Mayawatis as the trademark handbag is visible lies on one side of the flyover,elaborate pillars have been erected on the other side with the Bahujan Samaj Partys symbol: the elephant.
A large building in pink stone is being constructed in the middle.
This project should not have been built, a senior officer deputed by the Environment Ministry said. Though the state government gave permission for chopping of trees,the density of woods means this was technically a forest area.
An entire green belt was destroyed for this.