Updated: March 1, 2021 2:48:24 am
The Delhi government has appointed two new independent members to the Ridge Management Board (RMB), two years after the term of its previous members ended.
The appointment of the new members — Vivek Menon, the chief executive officer of Wildlife Trust of India, and Sohail Madan, the Delhi centre manager of the Bombay Natural History Society — was approved by Environment Minister Gopal Rai last week, Delhi government officials said.
The new independent members will take over from Sunita Narain, the director general of the Centre for Science and Environment, and Vimlendu Jha, founder of environmental NGO Swechha, whose term had expired in March 2019.
The eight-member RMB is headed by the Delhi Chief Secretary and was formed in 1995 on directions of the Supreme Court to preserve the ridge, a reserved forest of over 7,700 hectares and the northern extension of the Aravalli Range.
Board to decide on Metro Phase 4 corridor
One of the major projects that the newly constituted Board will consider is a proposal to use over 82,000 square metres of the South, South-Central and Morphological Ridge for constructing the Aerocity-Tughlakabad corridor under Phase IV of the Delhi Metro.
In a March 2020 letter, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) sought permission from RMB to use about 14,000 square metres of the Ridge area on permanent basis, and 68,000 square metres on temporary basis for construction of stations at Mahipalpur, Kishangarh, Ma Anandmayee Marg and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).
Details obtained under an RTI show that in August last year, Delhi’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Ishwar Singh had asked the DMRC to identify a parcel of non-forest land, equivalent to that being used in the Ridge, for compensatory afforestation.
A Delhi government official said, “The proposal from the DMRC will first be considered by the Board. If the RMB deems it fit, it will recommend it to the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC).”
The official added, “The four-member CEC, which includes officials from the Environment Ministry, NGOs and advocates, will create a report on the proposal and submit it to the apex court. The court will then take a decision on the proposal.”
In reply to queries by The Indian Express, a DMRC spokesperson said they have identified land for compensatory plantation but have not received permission yet to construct in the Ridge area. The spokesperson said, “DMRC has made all possible efforts to use only a minimum portion of the Ridge area. The alignment passes along the Mahipalpur–Mehrauli, and Mehrauli–Badarpur roads, which also mostly pass through the Ridge area.”
He added, “The DMRC is extremely conscious of its responsibilities. However, it may be appreciated that the Ridge covers vast areas of South Delhi through which this alignment is planned and it would have been absolutely impossible to cater to the large population there without passing through the Ridge area.”
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