Real estate developers who have projects within a 10-km radius of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary here are using environmental concerns to delay giving possession, buyers of these units have alleged.

A National Green Tribunal order in April this year had stopped all new constructions within the 10-km radius pending the final order of the Supreme Court in a related case. The NGT had, however, allowed ongoing construction to be completed, but said that completion certificates could only be given as per the final order of the apex court in the Goa Foundation case.

The Goa case, which began in 2004, relates to mining in the vicinity of a protected area. The apex court is yet to decide the case, so the NGT’s interim order stands as of now. The April order disposed of a petition by Noida-based lawyer Amit Kumar, who asked for a 10-km protective radius around the bird sanctuary.

In its order, the NGT Bench had asked the Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana governments to give their proposals about the criteria of eco sensitive zones to the Ministry of Environment and Forests. The U.P. Government had recommended a 100-metre radius. But, even today, no decision has been taken on this.

In all the back and forth between the different government agencies, the buyers said they were the worst hit.

A buyer of a flat in the 10-km radius said: “The NGT order is a non-issue for us. There are builders in the area who are giving possession and flats have been registered even three months ago.”

The frustrated buyer added: “This is just a ploy for those developers who are running late or have stretched themselves too thin to delay handing over our flats. There are 40 such projects in the area. It should not be forgotten that the buyers are not only burdened with payment of rents and EMIs, they would also not be able to avail of the tax benefits on the loans till they get the possession.”

Buyers, who wanted to remain anonymous, said they were being forced to make loan payments towards their new homes as well as pay rent for their current residences. Another buyer said: “The developers can give possession if they want, as the NGT order doesn’t say ongoing projects will be hit. The builders are just trying to get away with not paying us the penalties for the delay.”

Residents’ welfare associations in Noida have also said that the developers are trying to mislead people. The president of the Federation of Noida RWAs (FONRWA), M.P. Singh, said: “Injustice is being done to the public. The builders shouldn’t have taken people’s hard-earned money if there were environmental concerns with the project. And the Noida Authority shouldn’t have given them clearances.”

He added that the authority and the developers had worked together to “fool the public”. “The Noida Authority was aware of the issue, but officials just kept taking money and giving clearances,” Mr. Singh added.

The builders, however, said they had done everything by the book. Geetamber Anand, the president-elect of the Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (CREDAI) and the chairman cum managing director of ATS Infrastructure, said projects around the bird sanctuary had “legitimate sanctions and clearances from the authorities”.

“Does this 10-km radius proposal only apply to one side of the National Capital Region? There is rampant unauthorised construction on the Yamuna Bank itself, in Jamia Nagar. If the 10-km radius is applied, then everything from Pragati Maidan to Nehru Place in Delhi to large portions of Noida are illegal,” said Mr. Anand.

He said there were 30,000 units ready for possession this year and another 30,000 would be added next year. Mr. Singh, of the FONRWA, said the actual number of flats that fall in the affected radius was close to 5,000. Mr. Anand said the Noida Authority should give provisional occupation certificates till the matter is resolved.

Property dealers in the area admitted that there was some apprehension in the market. “We are dealing with a few projects in the affected area and our clients are naturally worried,” said Shobit Batra, the vice-president of marketing at Buniyad Real Estate Services.

Kapil Chowdary, the director of Future Property Mart in Noida, said: “Some clients have been given possession already. If anyone is worried about the situation, we will advise the builders to help them out.”

Meanwhile, the RWAs of Noida have decided to stand by the buyers in their fight to get the flats. “We will make sure the buyers get justice. We will protest against the Noida Authority and developers,” said Mr. Singh. (With inputs by Apurva Vishwanath)

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