Delhi Musings: Are parts of South Delhi sitting on wetlands?

A thousand water bodies in Delhi but not one notified as wetland. Ten wetlands are expected to be notified ahead of the civic polls in April though as Dilliwalahs brace for the decibel level to go up

Delhi Musings: Are parts of South Delhi sitting on wetlands?

Giraj Sharma

The three municipal corporations in Delhi, all of which are controlled by the BJP, have been blaming the AAP-run state government of crippling these bodies financially and deliberately squeezing the funds meant for them.

The municipalities have thus not been able to pay their employees’ salaries on time claims the BJP. AAP, on the other hand, has accused these municipalities of corruption and financial mismanagement. The blames and counter blames, exchanged over the past several years, have become more intense and acquired a higher pitch as Delhi gears up for civic polls in April.

So Dilliwalahs, if you are enjoying the current political tug of wars dispassionately as the battlegrounds happen to be in other states – brace yourself for the noise to move closer to your eardrums post 10th of March.

And if the Hyderabad municipal corporation elections are any indication, then expect the high-profile central ministers to take to the gullies kuchas and mohallas of Delhi. A good outcome of this could be that these temporary residents of Delhi may discover a little bit more of the city that’s beyond their lavish Lutyens’ bunglows. Expect no more. They are unlikely to even encounter the fictional Bhagmati of Kushwant Singh’s Delhi.

We all know that our man AK has come up in his political career via the dharna route. Dharnas perhaps still get our man’s adrenalin rushing. Dilli-walahs will remember how AK, while being the Chief Minister of Delhi, had sat on a dharna at the LG’s premises in 2018 along with three of his cabinet colleagues. This dharna, however, was in the cosy environment of Raj Niwas. And while it was supposed to be a ‘sitin’, the temptation to sleep on those cushy sofas was too good to let go. This was one instance when press photographers felt like paparazzi and shot netas sprawled on sofas. Being veterans in this game of protests, AAP members seem to be experts in estimating the impact of a protest or strike too. As per AAP, a whopping 70 lakh man hours were lost due to strikes by the municipal employees last year. Yet the city survives and in some ways it strengthens Dilliwalahs faith in God.

One authority against the other seems to have become norm in Delhi. Recently the Deputy Conservator of Forest (DFC) imposed a fine of bout Rs. 38 lakh on the Public Works Department (PWD) for failing to remove concrete enclosures around trees in the capital.

The DFC found that there are 387 trees in Vasant Vihar which fall under the PWD area that are still surrounded by concrete enclosures. The PWD was fined Rs. 10,000 per tree. As per an NGT order of 2013 (yes, there was governance and things worked before 2014), concrete within one metre radius of a tree needs to be removed. Concretisation of trees is also an offence under the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act. So next time you find concretisation around a tree that’s eating into its breathing space you know what to do. Report it as the Pegasus malware in your phone won’t pick that up.

Delhi has over a thousand ‘identified’ water bodies. Each of which has its own unique identification number. However, not one of these is currently notified as a ‘wetland’.

The Delhi State Wetland Authority (DSWA) is expected to release a draft notification for each water body and it is expected that 10 major lakes and water bodies will be notified as ‘wetland’ by the end of March. Being ‘notified’ as wetland ensures legal protection to the water bodies and, more importantly, it allows the DSWA to get funds from the Centre to protect and rejuvenate these.

While Dilliwalahs are really looking forward to this move, some residents of South Delhi are a little confused. Residents of colonies such as Greater Kailash, Amar Colony, New Friends Colony, Chittaranjan Park and others are wondering whether they are sitting on wetlands. The basements of their houses are getting flooded. Will this mean that yet another authority - the Central Ground Water Board has to lock horns with DSWA or will that bring the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) into play? Or will the South Delhi Municipal Corporation get into its act? And what about protests and loss of man hours – will that come into play? Gosh! It just doesn’t sink in!

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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