The National Highways Authority of India’s attempt to revive the controversial road project under the Gurugram-Manesar Expressway Phase-I through the Aravali Biodiversity Park off the Mehrauli-Gurugram Road here has sparked outrage among environmentalists and residents.
They are threatening to move court against the project which, they claim, is “ill-conceived”, not based on any traffic study and likely to cause “irreparable damage” to the environment and wildlife of Gurugram, recently tagged the most polluted city in the world.
The six-lane road project through the Aravali Biodiversity Park, which was shelved in November last following strong protests by environmentalists and citizens, is being revived following a decision taken during a meeting between the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority and the NHAI officials on March 27. The project aims to decongest the Delhi-Gurugram border at Sirhaul.
The Chief Executive Officer, GMDA, has advised the NHAI officials to review the alignment of the road to minimise its impact on the Biodiversity Park.
Road design review
The CEO has also advised the NHAI officials to review the road design so that the alignment to the extent possible can be kept towards the Delhi-Haryana boundary wall that runs at the boundary of the Aravali Biodiversity Park. It has also been decided to redesign the junction of the proposed road with MG Road so that land requirement within the biodiversity park can be minimised.
Aravali Biodiversity Park curator Vijay Dhasmana said the plan of a road through the park was “ridiculous”.
“It is absurd to bring a road through the park whether it is at the periphery, at the centre or any corner. While the New Delhi Master Plan talks about connecting the greens, we are segregating the greens by creating an express road through it. It will prove counterproductive,” warned Mr. Dhasmana.
Threat to wildlife
He said that creating a high-traffic zone anywhere near the park would harm the habitat of birds and wildlife. There are around 185 species of birds in the park. Secondly, he said, it would increase wildlife roadkill. “All the wildlife that crosses the park to go to Rajokri park in Delhi such as nilgai, jungle cat and jackal are going to be roadkills,” said Mr. Dhasmana.
Environment analyst Chetan Agarwal, who has been a part of the protests against the project, said the biggest question to be asked was the rationale behind the project. He said there was no study on the traffic to support the project. Another environmentalist, not willing to be named, claimed the efforts of the GMDA to revive the project despite protests by citizens were an indication that there could be some commercial interests behind it. He said it could be an attempt to help some “influential developer in the region”.
Not ready to give up the fight, Mr. Dhasmana said the protests were bound to happen. “Our first attempt will be to reason with the authorities and make them understand the futility and harmful impact of this project. If nothing works, we will be forced to knock on the doors of the court like we have done earlier,” said Mr. Dhasmana.
Interestingly, the GMDA, in asking the NHAI to revive the project, has overlooked the objections raised by its own Urban Environment Department. As per the minutes of the meeting, GMDA Urban Environment Adviser Rajbir Singh had raised the issue of environmental concerns, but his objections were dismissed saying he was not specific in what he said.
Additional CEO, GMDA, had in his letter to the NHAI, dated January 7, suggested alternative routes connecting National Highway-48 to Gurugram-Faridabad Road at Khusboo Chowk through Vishvakarma Marg via Sikanderpur Ghosi-Road No. 9 Section, Sikanderpur Ghosi-Faridabad Road Section or Sikanderpur Ghosi-Golf Course Road Section. It was also suggested to strengthen the existing 16-lane Golf Course Road to improve connectivity with Southern Peripheral Road.
The feasibility of these alternative routes was also discussed in the March 27 meeting, but it was concluded that these options would not ease the existing traffic congestion at the Sirhaul border and instead enhance congestion at Shankar Chowk, making the entire purpose of construction of road meaningless.
Protests since last year
Earlier, when the project was first taken up, the MCG Commissioner had in a letter on November 19 last year objected to the road saying, among other things, that the alignment was not according to the Gurugram-Manesar Master Plan-2031 and would also cause damage to the eco-sensitive area.
The National Association of Software and Service Companies had in a letter to Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar made an appeal not to create a bigger problem in order to solve the problem of traffic congestion. The letter suggested that building roads was not the solution to the increasing vehicular traffic and instead the government should promote public transport and walking.
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