The Uttar Pradesh government has been spurred into action after the National Green Tribunal took note of the issue of unauthorised constructions on the floodplains of the Yamuna and Hindon in Gautam Buddha Nagar and Ghaziabad districts.
Environmentalists have warned that concrete structures obstructed the rivers’ natural course and, discharging several tonnes of waste into them, posed a danger to their ecosystems.
In Noida alone, where, according to a survey, over 300 farmhouses and hundreds of houses have been built on the Yamuna’s floodplain, notices have been served on the owners. Chief Executive Officer of Noida and Greater Noida development authorities, Rama Raman, told The Hindu that notices have been served to individuals, published in the newspapers and even pasted on the buildings that stood on the flood plain zone. “They [owners of unauthorised buildings] have been asked to remove the structures themselves, or they would be removed by the development authority,” Mr. Raman said over the phone from Noida.
Though the deadline for the notice period expired on Friday and some structures are said to have been removed, the Noida CEO said action would be initiated in the next couple of days. In fact, the State Government has appeared to be in a tearing hurry to clear the structures by July 10, when the case is listed for hearing in the NGT.
Realtors and developers are alleged to have virtually invaded the floodplain zones, exploiting the absence of a law banning illegal constructions on the floodplains and the absence of a regulatory authority.
Irrigation Minister Shivpal Singh Yadav had, in April 2012, ordered a probe into the illegal constructions in the floodplain zones, a month after the formation of the Samajwadi government was formed. No action, however, was taken for over a year then. In the wake of the NGT’s May 20 order, State Chief Secretary Javed Usmani directed development authorities and the Irrigation Department to initiate action against the illegal structures at a meeting on June 21.
The probe conducted by the District magistrate of Gautam Buddha Nagar district (Noida) found that the farmhouses in question were built by several influential persons. The survey revealed that 124.137 hectares of Yamuna’s floodplain in Noida had been occupied and 319 farmhouses and thousands of houses constructed on it.
Realtors have been benefited by the disagreement between authorities over the purview of the plains.
Development authorities have blamed the Irrigation department, who in turn, have maintained that their jurisdiction does not extend to the floodplains. Legally, only farming activity can be undertaken on the floodplains, but herein lies a catch.
Irrigation department authorities too concede that construction of any kind, including farmhouses on the flood plains is illegal.