DDA’s Horticulture Department to protect 4,500 acres of land along Yamuna

New Delhi, Dec 9 (IANS) Showing zero tolerance against the encroachers polluting Yamuna river and its banks, the DDA has decided to hand over 4,500 acres of land spread over 15 villages on Yamuna banks to its Horticulture Department.

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) move is aimed at boosting greenery along the Yamuna banks.

According to a senior DDA official, the decision was taken following a directive of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to the Authority.

The NGT said that encroachments on the Yamuna banks are a serious pollution threat.

The decision will be implemented from January 2017. This will also help enhance green cover in the national capital.

The NGT, in its January 2015 directive, had asked the DDA and the Delhi government to ensure zero-encroachment along 52-kilometre ozone belt of the Yamuna, stretching from Haryana border to Madanpur Khadar village in southeast Delhi, the official said.

The 15 villages falling in the 4,500 acres include Garhi Mandu, Usmanpur, Chiraga Somali, Nangli, Jasola, Khizrabad, Indirapat Bhogal, Bhilorpur, Okhla, Khadari, Wazirabad and Madanpur, among others.

Out of these 15 villages, four come under the jurisdiction of the Delhi Government.

The residents of these villages frequently encroach upon the Yamuna banks post monsoon every year, the DDA official added.

They usually dump garbage, waste, construct huts, make cattle shelters and do farming and also indulge in other activities, such as washing clothes with hard chemicals which pose serious water and air pollution threats.

A large chunk of the proposed 4,500 acres of the DDA land was earlier this year also used for organising Shri Shri Ravi Shankar’s cultural event. The NGT had raised questions over the event, which violated its orders, and slapped a fine on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s organisation — The Art of Living.

The 52-kilometre stretch is very sensitive with regard to water and air pollution. Therefore, the NGT in its directive had strictly instructed the authorities to protect the size, shape and naturality of the river banks.

The decision of the NGT was also upheld by the Delhi High Court while disposing off a public interest litigation with regard to preservation of environment.

“The DDA is also spending around Rs 40 lakh annually in anti-encroachment drive to clear these vulnerable portions.

“Now it has taken a tough stand against the encroachments and given the charge of protecting the green area from encroachers to the Horticulture Department,” the official said.

The Horticulture Department will develop the 4,500 acres for plantation and nurseries, which will also help it keep the encroachers away, he added.

(Sanjeev Pal can be contacted at sanjeeev.p@ians.in)