Sunday, April 05, 2015

Focus: 'Najafgarh Lake' Wiped Off From The Map As Haryana And Delhi Govts Leave Lake From Records

The future seems to be bleak for the Najafgarh jheel, and it’s all because of governmental apathy. The Delhi government and the Haryana government are apparently not much bothered about the restoration of the lake — a wetland vital for the revival of the water table in Gurgaon and South Delhi. 

While the Delhi government plainly says that the lake does not exist anymore within the boundary of the Capital, the Haryana government is completely indifferent to the matter. 

About seven months back the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) had filed a petition before the National Green Tribal, seeking direction to the governments of Delhi and Haryana to take necessary steps for the lake’s revival. 

The NGO had previously presented a blueprint for the revival of the lake, and the plan was accepted by the two state governments. 

However, beyond that no action was initiated by the governments for actual revival of the wetland. 

About half of the jheel once existed within Delhi’s boundary. But replying to the petition, the Delhi government said, “no such water body exists” at the marked location now. 

On its part, the Haryana government did not even bother to send a counsel to represent itself in six successive hearings before the National Green Tribunal. 

The next date of hearing before the Tribunal is on April 13. 

Najafgarh jheel, another name for Sahibi river, tributary of river Yamuna, once occupied more than 300 square kilometres of area in southwest Delhi.

It finds a mention in the Delhi Gazetteer of 1883, and the Survey of India Map of 1911. Before Independence it used to be a rich habitat for birds and other wildlife, often visited by the British parties for hunting. 

Allan Octavian Hume, the British ornithologist, reported sightings of birds like the Pink-headed Duck and Siberian Crane here. 

These birds are not sighted in the Indian subcontinent anymore. 

After the 1960s, the Flood Control Department of Delhi kept widening the Najafgarh drain on the pretext of saving Delhi from floods, and eventually drained the Najafgarh jheel completely. 

INTACH had previously presented elaborate blueprints for the revival of the lake, recommending use of floodwaters from the Kakraula regulator and treated effluents from the Gurgaon sewage treatment plant. 

These recommendations were accepted by both the Delhi and Haryana governments, but not acted upon. 

INTACH’S petition now prays for directions to the two concerned state governments to take steps to restore the lake to its natural condition. 

In a two-page affidavit to National Green Tribunal, the Delhi government has said: “No jheel exists on the land pointed out by INTACH. 

"There is habitation on the said site which will be difficult to remove. It will also be difficult to demarcate the original lake land. While there is little water left on the Haryana side, there is nothing within the Delhi boundary.” 

Manu Bhatnagar, principal director of INTACH’s Natural Heritage Division, said: “The lake, if revived, would provide a water reservoir of approximately 10 million cusec metre. 

"Gurgaon faces water scarcity now and the situation is likely to worsen in the future. Moreover, the jheel has a huge eco-tourism potential and can be a revenue generator for the governments.” 

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