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The Crucial case of Okhla Bird Sanctuary

The Okhla Bird Sanctuary established in 1990 is now among the 466 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in India. This beautiful bird home is located at a point where Delhi bids adieu to the Yamuna River which continues to flow ahead in Uttar Pradesh. This serene place however, created a disturbing controversy in 2013, giving the builders and buyers of Noida, sleepless nights.

 

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), a specialized body established in 2010 to look after all the environment related cases and amend any activity resulting in destruction of eco system, believed that an area covering 10 km radius around the Okhla Bird Sanctuary was an Eco-Sensitive zone (ESZ). Therefore, it wanted to restrict any construction or developmental activity within the 10 km radius around the sanctuary

 

A twist in the story came when 49 projects were reported to fall under what NGT claims to be an ESZ. Stern orders of NGT to not to pass completion certificates to the completed projects shocked away the builders as well as the buyers.

 

This also had to do with the real estate industry because delayed projects act as barrier to the real estate development. As much as 70,000 buyers were affected with the NGT’s decision and 20,000 buyers were unable to take possession of their properties. This infuriated the buyers because they found themselves stuck amidst end number of rules those popped up all of a sudden. Innocent buyers had bought the properties without the knowledge of ESZs. Their money and dreams were at stake. People had taken huge amount of loans to invest in these properties which now had no future. It would result in all their money getting wasted.

 

To seek justice for people,ministry officials brought the decision of The National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) to light to prove that the 49 projects constructed within the 10 km radius of the sanctuary were not illegal because they dint fall under ESZ. In 2002, NBWL had decided that land falling within 10 km of the boundaries of national parks and sanctuaries should be notified as ESZ. However this decision was revised in 2005, making ESZ site specific. It was decided that specific activities would be strongly regulated, not prohibited in these areas. Accordingly, people associated with those 49 projects were not at fault. It was also found out that 15 of those 49 projects had been completed and had already received the completion certificates, which meant that nobody could deprive those 15 projects from starting with their operations. Finally in February 2014, UP submitted a report to shrink the ESZ from 10 kms to 100 meters radius.The decision was finally implemented after prolonged rejections by NGT, relieving 70,000 buyers.

 

Although now, the situation has been cooled down and buyers have won back their properties around the sanctuary, this entire incident adversely affected the industry. Economy lost about 2,000 crores due to the entire negative buzz created by NGTs orders. Projects of 45 developers including Jaypee, Amarpali, ATX, Logix, Ajnara, etc. were impacted, stretching their balance sheets. This had really been a tough time for developers and buyers which they survived and the development in this area is back on track!

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