Noida project: Clearance needed from Wild Life Bd; MoEF to SC

New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday said Uttar Pradesh government has to seek clearance from National Board of Wild Life for its project relating to construction of statues and memorials for Dalit leaders at Noida Park near here.

"The project requires clearance from National Board of Wild Life because it is withing 10km radius of Okhla Bird Sanctuary," the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) said in an affidavit.

The MoEF said the notification issued by it on December 2, 2009, has made it clear that any project coming up within the 10km radius of national parks and sanctuaries have to get the nod of National Wild Life Board.

The affidavit was filed in reponse to the apex court order which had asked the MoEF to make clear the requirments to be fulfiled by Uttar Pradesh government for getting clearance for its project.

The court had sought the response of the MoEF on October 1 when it had reserved its verdict on the petitions seeking directions against the project.

A Special forest bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia had sought the view of the MoEF in this regard after concluding a marathon hearing.

It had said the views of the Centre would be incorporated in the final judgement.

Uttar Pradesh government has defended its project and maintained that it did not require environmental clearance.

The state government said the project is not covered by the notification which required environmental clearance.

"The area involved in the project was only 33.43 hectares, much below the bench mark of 1,50,000 sq meter requiring environment clearance from MoEF," senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for UP government, had submitted.

"The project is not in the forest area," the advocate had submitted earlier before the Bench.

Venugopal had said that of the 6194 trees that have been cut, only 47 required the permission of the authorities for uprooting them as they were of native variety.

He said the permission for that was secured and remaining trees were cut as no permission was needed for doing so.

All work for the Rs 650-crore project on the 33.43 hectare land has been stopped since October 9, 2009, by an apex court order.

Earlier, senior advocate Harish Salve, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter, said clearance to the project has to be given keeping in mind the environmental concern.

He said since a major part of the work was completed, it would have to be carefully examined whether demolition would be the correct option.

He said it has also to be viewed whether planting of trees would serve the purpose of restoration of forest or not.

The apex court had during the earlier hearing said automatic approval to the project cannot be given merely because the Centre has stated that environment clearance was not required for it.

The apex court had said such a stand of the Centre that the Environment Impact Assesssment (EIA) was not required for the project has to be discussed in detail before arriving at any conclusion.

The affidavit filed by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had said the project of Mayawati government is covered under Area Development Activity requiring no EIA.

However, MOEF's affidavit drew strong objections from the opponents of the project.

Salve had submitted acceptance of such a stand of the government will cause more damage.

His stand was supported by the counsel for some Noida residents, Jayant Bhushan, who had said the project cannot be cleared without EIA as it was next to Okhla bird sanctuary.

The apex court had on August 13 wanted to know from the Centre under which category of Environment Assessment Notification the project could be put.

It is examining whether Uttar Pradesh government's project falls under the category of Building and Construction Project or Township and Area Development Project.

The project, which covers 20,000 sq meter, comes under the first category while those using 1,50,000 sq meter falls under the second.

The apex court had also sought the Centre's response to the suggestion that guidelines should be laid down for giving environmental clearance to projects in the vicinity of urban forests like Noida park and Siri Fort in Delhi.

Uttar Pradesh government had said Noida authorities were ready to reduce the concrete area of the park where statues and memorials of Dalit leaders have been installed.