The Hindon Elevated Road (ER) project connecting UP Gate or Delhi-Ghaziabad border on NH-24 to Raj Nagar Extension has been granted environmental clearance (EC) by the UP State Level Environment Impact Assessment Authority or SEIAA. The ER project had been hanging fire ever since it was challenged on environmental grounds by a Ghaziabad resident Sushil Raghav in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The project was also referred to the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests MoEF which later on asked the UP SEIAA to assess the environment feasibility of the project. The SEIAA finally gave the EC subject to several conditions.
However, the highly billed project has been in the eye of a storm ever since it was conceived in mid 2014 during the then Ghaziabad Development Authority (GDA) Vice Chairman, Santosh Yadav’s tenure. Yadav had touted it as a high priority project expected to boost connectivity and give a fillip to the real estate sector of the region. However, this is precisely the one of the reasons the green activists have been protesting against the project- which they say will only help the private builders to sell their housing projects in Raj Nagar Extension at a higher rate.
The ER project that was started during the previous regime is ready now—due to mostly non-stop construction activity carried out during that regime. But what has irked the conservationists and several residents is that why such a project was necessitated in the first place, involving a huge cost of around 1,200 crore.
Critics of the project say that the project will only cater to traffic to and fro Raj Nagar Extension rather than the whole city. They also say that if the GDA has so much funds at its disposal it should have rather focused on the Metro connectivity in Ghaziabad that has been at the doldrums since its start, due to fund constraints every now and then.
“Rather than funding the Metro link between Vaishali and Mohan Nagar—that could have benefitted lakhs of residents the earlier government went for the Elevated Road project that would only benefit a section of the city populace,” pointed out Akash Vashishtha, an environmental activist. Vashishtha runs a not-for-profit organization and has filed several cases in National Green Tribunal (NGT) related to green belts and pollution. He remarked, “Deadlines for Metro extension in Ghaziabad has been extended several times due to scarcity of funds, but surprisingly no such deadlock was encountered with regard to the Elevated Road project.”
The Elevated Road in its total run of 10.2 km will pass over Vasundhara- where it will have separate corridors for commuters for reaching —on one side to Vasundhara and on the other side to Indirapuram.
“It is really intriguing that a project of such a magnitude (in terms of cost) was needed just to improve connectivity within two points in Ghaziabad,” quipped a Raj Nagar resident, Munna Mishra. Considering a commuter is driving from UP Gate, he will anyhow reach Raj Nagar Extension within half an hour by taking a detour via Vaishali or Indirapuram and Vasundhara. Many commuters said that the ER project will not make much impact on the overall traffic scenario on GT Road as it is only designed keeping in mind Raj Nagar Extension.
However, there is confusion regarding how much benefit it will have for residents of this locality. One of the reasons is that for commuters headed to other side of Delhi, such as Dilshad Garden will not benefit as the road won’t pass from this side.
Several residents spoke at random—in Vaishali and Vasundhara said that that once commissioned this road will increase pollution manifolds in Vasundhara, Vaishali and Indirapuram. ‘With so many vehicles passing through, pollution levels are bound to increase; moreover, the road passes over the green belt areas in Vaishali and Vasundhara that shows what kind of lopsided planning as gone into executing this project.
Green activist, Sushil Raghav, on whose plea in the NGT the elevated road faced several delays said: “After I filed a case in the NGT about the road passing through bird sanctuary in Vasundhara, the NGT passed orders to get the environment clearance for this road.” After Raghav raised this issue the GDA sent the proposal for assessment to SEIAA that finally gave EC.
But Raghav has a different tale to tell. He alleged, “The ER project idea was mooted to benefit a section of the IPS and IAS lobby who have bought tracts of land in Raj Nagar Extension area when the region was coming up as a housing destination.” In fact Raghav assails the whole Raj Nagar Extension area as one that is illegitimate by all accounts. He further said: “The GDA came up with the idea to establish Raj Nagar Extension and acquired land for the purpose to start with. Later on builders also bought land directly from farmers wherever the land for their projects became scarce. The GDA originally had acquired the land to set up public utilities that would benefit the people of Ghaziabad and the farmers of the area, but the area was later on earmarked as a housing destination and it became a free-for-all for all builders.”
Raghav also alleged that the ER project has been a drain on the public exchequer and asked that the real conspiracy behind this project should be unmasked. “How come a project involving huge costs was planned that would just benefit people of a particular locality and that too in a limited way,” he asked. He also demanded that land records of the area should be checked to find out as to who purchased land after Raj Nagar Extension came to existence and after announcement of the ER project.
Critics of the project say that the ER project is not promoting public transport in any way. “Had the Elevated Road been conceived for CNG bus service or any other public transport it would be welcomed. But in its current form it is only intended to promote seamless movement for private vehicles,” said Sanjay Verma, a resident of Vaishali.
Dissenting voices also point out that the ER project’s safety could be an issue especially as the vehicles will just speed up to reach their destination on this stretch. The GDA must spell out what safety measures it has in place for any mishaps, pointed out several citizens.
Meanwhile, Sushil Raghav told delhincrnews.in that after studying the facts of the SEIAA clearance he will decide on the next course of action.
All efforts to talk to the GDA XEN looking after the project were in vain, as he could not be reached on his phone no. provided by the GDA.
–Prasoon Pant, Editor, delhincrnews.in