Ironical it may sound- as Ghaziabad like many other cities in the country prepares for Swachhata Inspection by Centre, the fact is that it has been voted as the most polluted city in the country as far as air pollution is concerned. Being a part of NCR was never easy for Ghaziabad citizens as being an industrial city it had its share of ingredients polluting the air. In the past decade or so Ghaziabad has been at the centre stage of real estate boom; and, with a plethora of ongoing infra projects in the city—many having commissioned since long, like the Metro or the elevated road, the construction activity in the city is on in full swing. All these factors have been a major cause of air pollution coupled with a vehicle boom that furthers the evil of pollution.
When pollution is so omnipresent corrective measures cannot lag behind. And hence the local administration claims to have taken several measures to curb air pollution, such as shutting down some polluting industries, asking realtors/people to follow some standard operating procedures or SOPs for construction and so on.
However, when it comes to city’s green belts many areas of Ghaziabad cut a sorry picture. Encroachments by vagabonds and in some cases influential people have proved a disaster for many green belts in the city. This is when the UP Govt.’s flagship anti-encroachment drive is running in full steam in Ghaziabad as claimed by the administration.
The Ghaziabad Nagar Nigam (GNN) and the Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) have a number of green belts under their jurisdiction spread across the city. Both of these agencies being locally governed, have time and again dispatched their teams to deal with the menace of encroachment and removing these is a daily run for them.
But Ghaziabad has a substantial tract of green area that falls under the jurisdiction of the Irrigation Department. One of such stretch of green belt under the UP Irrigation Department, that runs parallely to Hindon Canal Road starting from Vasundhara Sector 1 and ending in Vaishali has been usurped by the land mafia since last 7-8 years. These encroachers have built religious structures on the green belt and now these are bursting at the seams with the innocent citizens being told by these charlatans that they have permission to run these temples and other religious structures. Not only this, these encroachers have got electricity and water connections too, pointed out residents residing in the vicinity. Some of these also organise health-check up camps in their premises for a fee, it has been learnt from the residents living nearby. These temples/ religious structures have a dedicated stream of devotees who throng these as they offer free ‘bhandaras’ on numerous occasions. These have well-appointed priests and other staff and also have shops outside them selling ‘puja’ articles on special days.
More than a year back in September 2016, the NGT had passed an order on a petition by NGO- ‘Friends’, through its general secretary Sharad Tiwari, wherein the UP Govt and the local municipal body were directed to remove all encroachments starting from Kanawani up to Sector 19, Vasundhara. The petition stated that several religious structures had come up on the green belt besides the area was also being turned into a garbage dump.
According to Sharad Tiwari, when the judgment was passed, the UP Govt. as well as the Ghaziabad Municipal Corporation had said before the NGT that it will take steps to remove all such encroachments—religious structures and others— but later on did not do anything about it; as a result the problem has turned out to be more chronic in nature
delhincrnews.in spoke to an official of the UP Irrigation Department—who surprisingly sits at Okhla; that explains the disinterest. Many of these illegal occupations by land mafia has no sanction of the local people who are mostly middle class residents who do not know their reality while they visit them.
Shockingly, the Irrigation Dept. told this Editor that if the administration has the requisite will power all these structures on green belt stretch can be removed within a time-frame.
Although, there have been numerous press statements from the DM’s office stating that anti-encroachment drives have been running intensely, this particular encroachment apparently has escaped the administrations’ attention.
After nothing happened despite the NGT order, the land grabbers behind these encroachments have become more brazen and have converted them into ‘pucca’ structures.
Konark Enclave in Sector 17 Vasundhara lies in the vicinity of this green belt on which a Sai Temple—one of the first to come up—exists. A resident of this locality and a social activist Arun Shukla remarked that the authorities should have built a jogging track on this green belt that exist as a long stretch along the Hindon Canaal or Pusta Road. Shukla said: “Considering that the pollution levels are rising so much the authorities must remove all existing encroachments on this green belt and restore it as a green area with plantations that the residents can use for morning walks and for chilling out.”
Most of the residents pointed out that they wanted green belt restored at the earliest. They said that this green belt could have been the lungs of Vasundhara colony but the apathy of the officials to act against these encroachers is letting them down.
Residents also said that with the elevated road passing atop this green belt due for commissioning soon, pollution levels will further rise as many vehicles headed towards Raj Nagar Extension will pass through Vasundhara. Hence, restoration of green belt is an urgent need.
Green activist, Akash Vashishtha said that the NGT in another petition by him had earlier passed an order to get rid of all encroachments on green belts in Ghaziabad and the Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary was directed to get the order followed. But nothing seems to have been done on the ground, he lamented.
According to both Akash Vashishtha and Sharad Tiwari the UP Govt. through the DM should urgently take steps to drive out the encroachers from this green belt and revive it at the earliest.
-Prasoon Pant, Editor