MPISG letter to Central Empowered Committee constituted by Supreme Court, with reference to news reports about NGOs petitioning it for declaring Lal Khet area ridge, to draw attention to available statutory protections, PIL being heard by High Court, etc

MASTER PLAN IMPLEMENTATION SUPPORT GROUP
A synergy platform of citizens' groups with legitimate stakes in benefits of planned development

Central Empowered Committee Constituted by Hon’ble Supreme Court Sub: Unplanned developments in ridge / ridge periphery in Mehrauli-Mahipalpur area

Dear Sir / Madam, As per news reports of 13.07.04 a report has been submitted to you about Malls and army housing in above-mentioned area with call for declaring it protected. This is to bring to your attention that the area is already protected against Malls, army housing and such other projects by Delhi Master Plan (DMP) / Delhi Development Act, 1957 and by CGWA notification / Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 and that illegal, besides environmentally inappropriate, unplanned development in it is subject of WP 8523/2003, from which are enclosed at encl.1 for your information Annexure-P/1 (indicating unplanned projects and old settlements on DMP Land Use Plan) and text of Synopsis, Additional Affidavit detailing out illegalities in various unplanned projects, High Court judgment of 16.09.02 in WP 4978/2002 against one of them (Sultangarhi) forming Annexure-A in Additional Affidavit, and Annexure-P/12 enumerating prior representations, etc, indicative of purpose and basis of PIL emanating from Master Plan Implementation Support Group (MPISG) engagements.

MPISG is only a synergy platform of only citizens’ groups engaging only on enforcement / protection of their entitlements under existing law in sustained manner and with qualified professional advice. Groups synergizing on it on environmental concerns include those in ridge and riverbed areas in view of the nature of Delhi’s ridge-river ecosystem as well as similarity in legal protections (notably Zonal Planning imperatives under s.8 of DD Act and CGWA notification). A note of 05.07.04 at encl.2 provides some idea of the broader context of our engagements in support of planned development according to law and puts in perspective a joint demand, at encl.3, made on 04.07.04 by groups from 20 settlements with about 5000 families, that has direct bearing on the site of Malls and Biodiversity Park. The point to which we wish to draw your attention through these two enclosures is that so-called conflicts between development and environment or poor and conservation are adequately resolved by DMP and environmentally inappropriate up-market development is usually illegal, a point that NGO activism in Delhi falls short of making (perhaps because of prejudices against planning law and professions that some of its protagonists display from time to time). The result is what can only be called weak offensive against illegal environmental damage that tends to ‘lose’, as happened with Grand Hotel on the instant (Malls) site, while making for infringements of other development rights.

Mehrauli-Mahipalpur area was designated beyond urbanisable limits in DMP 1962, with some area earmarked for mining. It had already settlements much older (eg, 14th century Mahipalpur) and as old (eg, quarry workers’ settlements in Rangpuri Pahari, Lal Khet, etc) as, say, Vasant Vihar. Vasant Kunj came up in violation of DMP and continues to be developed profitably in disregard of it to detriment of old settlements in neglect of their DMP entitlements to integration into balanced development. In revised DMP approved in 1990, area between Vasant Kunj and Vasant Vihar was earmarked as mainly residential and green (district park, not ridge park, which is marked in Sultangarhi area). F-Zone Plan of 1998 gave provisional approval for development in line with hotels’ project proposal, reducing residential allocation to 35 hectares (enough for 5000 EWS families). The hotels project usurped more DMP residential than green and unplanned Biodiversity Park is now usurping the little that it left. Old settlements in Lal Khet are facing eviction for this so-called Biodiversity Park, just as old settlements in Rangpuri Pahari (DMP site for ridge park) were partly demolished without notice in 2000 for illegal Sultangarhi scheme for mega-housing, international centre, etc, being promoted in name of so-called Heritage Park. (The demand at encl.3 captures the import of so-called Parks).

That such so-called Parks have little to do with clean green concerns is evident from ongoing construction inclusive of illegal boring on institutional plots near Biodiversity Park and on farmhouses, etc, near proposed Heritage Park as well as from their use as USP to sell-well (currently) unplanned Malls involving illegal boring, whose advertisements make much of Biodiversity Park, and (in 2002) unplanned DDA HIG flats involving illegal boring, brochure for which made much of proposed Heritage Park. News reports of 13.07.04 of environmentalist call for protection of the Malls site a day before news reports (yet again) of DDA plans for Sultangarhi scheme and a day after complaint with pictures against illegal boring underway on Mall site (grown since) make a pattern become all too familiar that asks save-what-and-how-and-for-whom?

A call to save the ridge on a site where the ridge has been lawfully quarried for nearly half century and where DMP earmarked in 1990, after due consideration and by due process, District Park (not ridge (regional) park) and seeking only protection under law of an area already protected by law (CGWA notification and DMP) against unplanned development is no answer to implementation failure on existing environmental protections and fails to account for development distortions (illegalities) and implicitly calls for evictions of those aggrieved by these distortions.

We regret to have to say this, but while NGO activism / ideas for saving the ridge with its natural and man-made water structures, quarries, monuments, etc, are privileged by media, etc, it is those who have long been living and working in it who have been minding its resources to the extent they can (such as by spending time at Sultangarhi Tomb to deter vandalism or by maintaining Mahipalpur Mahal), have been persistently seeking intervention beyond their means (such as for site under CISF / army housing, which is Mahipalpur hauz, part of 14th century engineering marvel inclusive of Mahipalpur Bundh, breach of which in July 2003 on account of CISF flats went almost unreported amidst press releases about 21st century heritage park boundary wall), and have been playing guard calling PCRs and lodging thana complaints, at times in dead of night, against illegal quarrying, tree-felling, boring, filling of water bodies, etc, and making applications about all this and more.

Our viewpoint in this matter is pending hearing by High Court and Standing Parliamentary Committee and also awaiting response to applications (subsequent to those enumerated in Annexure-P/12 included in encl.1) for compliance of court orders that our efforts returned in 2002 as well as for investigations (u/s 41(3) of DD Act) into legality and propriety of administrative decisions, including for the instant site, besides action on complaints made to Police, CGWA, MoUD, CVC and others against illegal boring, etc – all within the ambit of existing and adequate protective legislation and opportunities open to all to ensure it is enforced.

We are writing to you because others have done so and are unlikely to have brought the above facts and law to your attention and hope you will appropriately consider the same. Should any clarification or further information be required, we are at your disposal. Thanking you, Yours sincerely

Gita Dewan Verma / MPISG Planner


cc:

  • Shiv Narayan ji, MPISG convenor (villages), for record wrt WP 8523/2003
  • Secretary, Delhi Science Forum, for record wrt WP 4978/2003
  • Samay Singh, MPISG convenor (bastis), for record wrt demand of 04.07.04 and for information wrt your recent complaint to Central Empowered Committee against illegal quarrying, etc, in Rangpuri Pahari
  • Respondents in WP 8523/2003 (VC DDA, Secretary MoUD, Chief Secretary GNCTD, Commissioner MCD, Secretary MoCA, MD DMRC, MS CGWA), for information wrt developments related to the PIL
  • CVC and Commissioner Police, in continuation of letter / complaint of 13.07.04 including picture of boring on Mall site (in continuation of letter of 08.07.04 with picture of boring construction on district park site and complaint lodged in police station on 02.07.04 about illegal constructions / borings in the area in general)