NGO wants prez to intervene to save Yamuna

Bus depot on river's bed was supposed to be a temporary structure for duration of Commonwealth Games


Neha Sethi | November 29, 2010

Millennium Park bus depot
Governance Now photo

After the Delhi government claimed that it will not demolish the Millennium Park bus depot, Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, a green NGO has now written to the president, Pratibha Patil, to intervene in the matter. In a letter to the president, the NGO has said that the use of 61 acres of the Yamuna river bed for a permanent bus depot is an assault on the river by a state agency.

‘This brazen takeover of the river bed / flood plain by an agency of the state is not just unauthorised and illegal but violates the duties cast on the state by the Article 48-A of the Indian constitution that reads, ‘The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wild life of the country’, the letter claims.

The Millennium Park bus depot in New Delhi had come up on the Yamuna river bed to park the buses being used to ferry athletes during the Commonwealth games. The lieutenant governor’s (LG) office, in a letter to the NGO in May, had assured that the depot would be a temporary structure which would be removed after the games. But the recent reports suggest that both the Delhi transport corporation (DTC) and the Delhi government have said they have no plans of demolishing the structure. Rs 61 crore have been spent on its construction.

Manoj Misra, the convener of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan said that his previous letters to the chief minister Sheila Dikshit, prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi have not managed to elicit a reply from any of them. “I hope the president takes note of the letter,” he added. Misra said that this construction will hamper the recharge of groundwater.

But Rakesh Mehta, the chief secretary justified government's decision with a bizarre claim that the depot, by housing DTC buses, was promoting public transport and hence was facilitating clean air in the city. “It is a matter of clean water vs. clean air,” he told Governance Now, adding that the government needs to discuss the matter with the NGO.

“This is an excuse that he has been trying to make for a long time,” Misra said. The government cannot give preference to clean air or water and they have to ensure both at the same time, he said.

“How can you encroach on the river bed without any rule of law?” he asked, adding that the government should respect the authority of the LG. “We just want them to fulfil the terms and conditions under which the bus depot came up,” he said.



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