Delhi Metro’s Phase-III ‘too close’ to Okhla Bird Sanctuary

Okhla Bird sancओखला Okhla (OKA): The Okhla Bird Sanctuary, already threatened by real estate development all around it, is facing another threat, this time from Delhi Metro. An elevated Metro track, as part of Phase III, is likely to pass very close to it, and green crusaders are seeing red.

An RTI enquiry revealed that Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) doesn’t have the National Board of Wildlife’s (NBWL) permission for construction. And the RTI activist says that Metro construction has been going on rapidly despite that: a claim contested by DMRC, which says that the bird sanctuary will not be affected by construction.

“The Metro bridge is about 400 metres away from the nearest point of sanctuary. The sanctuary is located 1.5 km away from main casting activity, where we are using silent generator sets. The Metro projects in any case are not in the notified list of projects requiring prior environmental clearance as per a government notification of 2006,” said a DMRC spokesperson.

Vikrant Tongad, who had filed the RTI query, however claims that a large part of the Metro line (from Botanical Garden to Kalindi Kunj) is barely a few metres away from the sanctuary.

Anand Arya, a birder who has been frequenting the sanctuary for over 15 years, says now it’s mandatory for any project coming up within a 10km radius of the sanctuary to have clearance. “This is obviously going to affect the sanctuary very badly. The Metro always says that they are not required to get environmental clearances, but now things have changed. NGT had recently directed that any project coming up within a 10km radius of Okhla sanctuary needs a clearance. Also, Supreme Court had directed all sanctuaries to notify eco-sensitive zones of about 10km around them. But many sanctuaries, including Okhla, didn’t do anything about it. MoEF had said those who fail to notify eco-sensitive zones (ESZ) will be forced to have a 10km ESZ around them. DMRC’s project clearly falls within this radius,” said Arya.

He claims that there used to be lakhs of birds in the sanctuary in 1987-88, but the diversity and population started dwindling because of a continuous onslaught of infrastructure projects around it. “There are birds that travel huge distances for food. An eagle, for instance, can travel up to 150 miles and come back to its perch in a day. With such disturbances, obviously, birds can’t survive,” he added.