With the Neela Hauz flyover project in the Capital expected to become fully operational this June, the campaign to save the Neela Hauz pond on which it has come up has gathered momentum, all the more so because Delhi Development Authority which was to take up the restoration work has stated in response to an RTI application that it has no plans to do so.
The flyover is being constructed by the Public Works Department of the Delhi Government. It was taken up to facilitate movement of vehicles from Outer Ring Road in South Delhi to Vasant Kunj and M G Road.
During an inspection of the site this month, Public Works Minister Raj Kumar Chauhan had stated that once the project is complete the Neela Hauz pond would also be restored to its existing condition to preserve the environment of the entire area. He had also pointed out that the bio-diversity plan for pond is being developed by the Delhi Development Authority.
However, according to the Citizens' Group for Neela Hauz, comprising residents of Vasant Kunj, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Mehrauli and other parts of South-West Delhi who have come together to work for restoration of the largest natural water body in South Delhi, the PWD has deposited nearly Rs.3 crore with the Forest Department for restoration work and DDA is yet to prepare the restoration plan.
According to the group, which is also organising an awareness meet on the issue titled “Save the Hauz, Save our Water'' at School of Life Sciences Auditorium in JNU on Tuesday, the Hauz is important to the area from the historic, environmental and ecological perspective.
Spread over 2.5 hectares, it is an ancient natural lake situated in the Southern Ridge called Sanjay Van and is critical for maintaining the water table levels in this extremely dry and rocky part of the city. Besides, as per a group member, Nitya Jacob, legend has it that it was a major water source for the Rajput city of Qila Rai Pithora and also a halt on the trade route into Delhi.
According to the residents, it was in 2008 that as part of the preparations for the Commonwealth Games, the PWD started widening Aruna Asaf Ali Road that links Vasant Kunj to the Outer Ring Road. As part of the project, about a third of Neela Hauz was filled with debris to facilitate the building activity for the movement of machinery and materials. This choked the Hauz to a great extent and damaged its eco-system.
While the PWD has started removing some debris, the Citizens' Group insists that the lake's restoration has still not been taken up in any concrete manner.
PThe Citizens' Group has demanded that the Hauz be dredged, the other construction debris that contractors have dumped around the lake be removed and the pond be merged with Sanjay Van.