Residents Take Fears Of Large-scale Damage To NHAI
The alignment of a new road proposed to be built from NH-8 to Gurgaon-Faridabad Road passes 20/25 meters inside the compound of the Aravali Biodiversity Park, showing why the project is facing stiff opposition from residents’ groups who are worried it will destroy the park.
As the plan stands now, a 2km stretch of the road is to pass through the park. Were this road to be built, it would lop off an entire portion along one of the park’s two long edges, cutting a crescent-shaped slice through it. So far, no specific numbers have been shared on how much of the 380-acre park will get affected. Environmentalists and residents’ groups fear building a road will do far more damage than just reducing the park area, affecting its flora and fauna and ultimately threatening its survival.
And amid claims by state government officials about a rethink of the blueprint to take the road along the boundary wall of the park rather than through its compound, the alignment was revised this April to take the road closer to an edge of the park than it was before.
The route now on the blueprint is what was drawn up in April. Officials admitted there was little room to man observe the alignment because of land availability problems.
The road has been envisaged as an access-controlled expressway – part of the Greater Southern Peripheral Road from Ambience Mall to Khaki Duala – which means crash barriers will be built as well.
A senior NHAI official said on Wednesday, “The first alignment proposed was passing through the middle of the park, including some land parcels that belong to private entities. Later, GMDA suggested if we could take the road towards the periphery of the park on the side facing the Haryana-Delhi border. Their suggestion was taken into account and a second alignment was finalized.” The official added NHAI was aware of the ecological importance of the area and had mitigation plans in place, including planting the same species of trees in the vicinity of the affected area of the park.
Environmentalists who are opposed to the project had met NHAI chairman Santee Rajang on Tuesday. “We made a presentation, saying what the state) of the park) is, what kind of forest it is and the effort that has gone into building and preserving this. They heard us and told us there are several stakeholders in the proposal – the Haryana government, MCG and GMDA They also said NHAI is just the implementing agency and other stakeholders would have a better say on the issue,” said environmentalist Vijay Dasani.
“They told us if we have an alternative route, they would look into, we asked them to give us the feasibility study and the purpose of decongestion of NH8. Unless someone provided us with data, how can we come up with alternatives?” added Dasani.
The alignment design of the project mentions that since land acquisition is difficult, the possibility of developing the expressway as a mix of plain and elevated roads with four-lane carriageways on both sides as well as service lanes would be explored.
Approximately, 3.5 lakh vehicles use NH-8 while it has been designed to handle only 1.8 lakh vehicles daily, an NHAI official said.
Asked about Tuesday’s meeting, a senior NHAI official said, “We listened to their concerns and also shared our views. The highway alignment has been proposed by the local authority and the project was mooted by the state government. We are ready to look into any viable option. The state authorities had only shared that the project could pass through the land, which is owned by MCG.”
Sources said there is no other option on the alignment as NHAI can’t plan the road through Delhi because of the Rajokri Air Force station. Constructing an elevated road is not feasible because of the terrain, the officials said.
Interestingly, former MCG commissioner Rajesh huller, who is now principal secretary to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, had played a key role in engaging citizens to develop the park. Even private firms of Gurgaon had contributed from CSR funds for large-scale plantation.