The Delhi Government’s decision to move the Millennium Bus Depot, built on the Yamuna riverbed, has once again brought to the fore the lack of infrastructure to accommodate the number of buses.

The Delhi Government had on Thursday told the Delhi High Court that it will take nine months — six months to identify an alternative site and another three months to move — to shift the Rs.60-crore depot built ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games by the then Sheila Dikshit Government.

While there is certainly a need to protect the riverbed, there is a need to immediately look for alternative solutions, noted Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) executive director Anumita Roychowdhury.

“Delhi has committed to increasing the numbers of buses, but purchases have slowed down since the government has not been able to plan for depots and parking areas. This will require holistic planning to identify land, implement good design and decrease dead mileage,” she told The Hindu.

“The city has been able to accommodate multi-level car parking facilities, but parking areas for buses has not got attention and planning under the Master Plan,” said Ms. Roychowdhury, adding the CSE has always pushed for stronger infrastructure to augment bus transport.

The then Lieutenant-Governor had in October 2009 approved the proposal for developing an athlete bus parking facility at the ash pond along the Nizamuddin bridge. This facility came to be known as the Millennium Depot. Though permission was granted for a makeshift bus depot for 10 days to deal with the rush during the Games, a more permanent bus depot was created.

Later, the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the Games noted that “the Delhi Transport Corporation had not obtained necessary approvals for the use of the land from the Delhi Development Authority, which was the land owning agency. The construction was in violation of the Master Plan for Delhi 2021 and the proposed zonal plan earmarks the area as being meant for recreation [green]”.

It is learnt that the DDA is already in the process of identifying alternative locations in different parts of the city. Environmentalist Vinod Kumar Jain, one of the original petitioners who had moved the High Court against the depot, said he refused to believe that the government did not have any other location to move the facility.

“I remember one of the earlier affidavits submitted by the Delhi Government had identified 21 locations that could be alternative venues for the depot. Granted they are not as large as the one where the Millennium Depot currently stands, but they are spread across the city,” he said.

Manoj Misra of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan, who “welcomed the decision”, said he expects the government to find an alternative sooner.

“The possibility always existed that they may be asked to move. So they should have done their homework and lined up alternative sites. Ideally, the depot should be shifted before the monsoons,” he added.

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