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In volte face,ministry gives clean chit to Noida statue park

After holding the Mayawati government in Lucknow guilty of giving a go by to environmental norms for the statue complex in Noida,the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has now given it a clean chit.

Written by Neha Sinha | New Delhi |
August 26, 2009 12:14:03 am

After holding the Mayawati government in Lucknow guilty of giving a go by to environmental norms for the statue complex in Noida,the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has now given it a clean chit. In a reply to the Supreme Court’s centrally empowered committee,the ministry said the statue park near Atta Market flyover has not violated any norms.

The apex court is hearing an environmental violations case. The report was received by the committee on Monday.

In a report prepared last month,the ministry had said 6,803 trees had been cut for the Rs 685-crore project. The independent study report also said Noida Authority did not seek requisite environmental clearances before starting construction. The report said the project site spanned 20,000 square metres and was located within 10 kilometres of the Okhla bird sanctuary. Therefore,the report concluded,“the project required environmental clearances from the Centre”.

But in its latest reply to the apex court-appointed committee,the ministry has given the Authority a clean chit on all counts,stating that no environmental violations were made on counts of the Forest Conservation Act (regarding cutting of trees),Environmental Protection Act (getting environmental clearances),and the Wildlife Protection Act (proximity to Okhla sanctuary).

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The clean chit was based on Noida Authority’s written explanation to the Centre. The Authority maintained that the area was a ‘plantation’,not a ‘forest’ — a view now endorsed by the ministry.

The Noida Authority also contends that only 9,542 sq m of the complex is built-up area and thus it did not require an environmental impact assessment from the Centre. This,too,stands endorsed by the ministry.

The ministry’s earlier report had found that three-fourths of the 33-hectare complex had been concretised. It also said that Forest Survey of India imagery revealed that trees were regenerating rapidly in the park and the site had thus become a natural “deemed” forest.

But in a complete turnaround,the latest report states: “Noida has treated this as an urban park… the area under discussion is neither recorded as forest nor deemed forest and actually is an urban tree park. Construction work in the area does not attract provisions of the Forest Conservation Act.”

In perhaps the only criticism of tree felling at the site,the ministry report says the area was “better suited” to be part of an eco-sensitive zone,or wildlife sanctuary. But it adds that no violations can now be recorded,as Uttar Pradesh has not notified any eco-sensitive zones.

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