Public Interest Litigations
1995 PIL: In the Delhi High Court, by the ‘Citizens for the Preservation of the Lakes and Quarries Wilderness (CPQLW), against the illegal building of a road by the DDA( Delhi Development Authority) on a protected area, the 6.4 sq km Vasant Kunj Mahipalpur ridge. The road was stopped by the court.
1996 Elephant Corridor PIL: In the Supreme Court by Vikram Soni against Sterling Resorts for building on a critical The 0.6 KM elephant corridor at Kaladhungi (near the Corbett Museum). Immediate stay ordered
1996 PIL: In the Supreme Court, by CPQLW, against the International Hotels complex in which 13 luxury hotels were to be built on the same ridge. In response to the case the Supreme Court created India’s first Urban Environmental Legislation with the formation of the Environmental Impact Assessment Authority ( EIAA ), to review the environmental status of this and all other big projects in the National Capital Territory before giving any clearance. This ridge was found to be a three way protected area
- As an Aravalli Ridge which is protected in all Master plans of Delhi. The entire area of 6.4 sq km was demarcated by the Geological Survey of India and found to be Arravalli ridge.
- It was declared a deemed forest by the Apex Environmental Authority (EPCA) with no non forest activity permitted.
- The whole area was found to be very important pure water recharge area and notified by the CWGA.
The Supreme Court judgment prohibited any building in the area.
2004 PIL in Supreme Court by CPQLW and RBA: Strangely, in violation of the above ruling, the DDA and the Army started building again in this totally protected area. CPQLW filed a PIL with the CEC, as a Forest case – that this is a forest area where building is illegal. CEC (Central Empowered Committee) is a Supreme Court appointed body to look into violations of Forest Act. The CEC asked the Army and DDA to stop construction and suggested that the whole area be protected as a National Park. No observance.
Ridge Bachao Andolan also filed for a stay on this illegal construction as it was without mandatory environmental clearances. Construction was stayed in May 2006. The MOEF and the Supreme Court accepted that this is a protected ridge ( Arravalli ) forest and water notified area where no construction should have taken place, and that too, without clearances. But, in November 2006, in a shocking verdict they reserved judgement and allowed constructions stating, ‘since some construction has already been done ‘we have no alternative but to compromise with the de facto situation.’
Deposed in Supreme Court to say that ‘ it has constructed only 4% of the area of 3.25 sq km of this ridge’ , in its possession, BUT has built 60% of the area between 2004 and now
Has killed “ Little Bharatpur”, a fine migratory bird refuge in this area, and is: excavating a huge conduit in Mahipalpur’s 1000 year old forest
A Rs 5 lakh fine was levied on the Mall owners when the commercial value of the 25 hectare site was Rs 25000 crores!
We had managed to save the whole area of 6.4 sq km of ridge forest till 2004. But finally, we have saved an area of. 2.23 sq kms that continues to enjoy protection as a Bio – diversity Park
ALL THIS IS DOCUMENTED IN THE VIDEO ON THE RIDGE
2005 PIL in the High Court of Delhi: Filed for protection of this ridge and surrounding areas as a Community Ground Water Reserve. Though extraction of water and building of tubewells is strictly not permitted by the flawed CGWA notification*, inspite of being a water notified area, there is no bar on construction as such. So construction goes on and destroys this valuable resource. We have asked for sensible legislation to stop this deliberately flawed notification which is destroying over 700 valuable water resource areas in the country..
* (The notification of the Central Groundwater Authority( Public Notice No. 9/2000 under Sec. 3(3) of the Environment (Protection)Act) is meant to to preserve groundwater reserves but has a flaw)
Still in court after 5 years.
Movements and Protests
CPQLW: Citizen’s for the Preservation of the Lakes and Quarries Wilderness
Worked on protecting the ridge for 12 years – now a part of Natural Heritage First.
RBA: Ridge Bachao Andolan
A confederation of various NGO’s with Diwan Singh as its coordinator.
Many of its members are now apart of Natural Heritage First, and continue to work for saving the ridge forest.
In January 2006 we ( CPQLW and RBA) organized a human chain protest against building on this ridge with many schools and resident welfare associations, NGO’s ( particularly FORCE and TAPAS), artists, Delhi IIT students and citizens. It was the largest environmental protest in Delhi ( see Ridge film). ( Click here to see overview and chronology of Save Ridge movement )
Yamuna Bachao Andolan (save Yamuna Flood Plains)
Since 2007, we have been working to preserve the Yamuna and its floodplains. We have been working for this cause independently as well as under the banner of Yamuna Satyagraha, which is a confederation of various NGOs, including Tarun Bharat Sangh led by Rajender Singh. Diwan Singh, its founding member, has been coordinator for most of its activities. ( click to see the Overview and chronology of events).
Natural Heritage First invited Rajender Singh, the well known Magasaysay awardee to join us in the campaign to save the Yamuna floodplains. On, August 1, 2007, together with many environmental organizations, resident groups and Rajender Singh, we launched Yamuna Satyagraha, a Gandhian protest. The Satyagraha continued for almost two years, with a large number of local farmers having taken charge of the satyagraha sthal. This has been one the longest protests in the city of Delhi. A number of active satyagrahi activities were done, at times subjecting us to police custody. Widely covered by media, the protest raised pitch for the cause for Yamuna in this city, resulting in success in the form of moratorium on further constructions on flood plains.
Revival of Water Bodies in Delhi:
In 2008, it came to our notice that water bodies falling in Gram Sabha lands in village Bakkarwala in West Delhi were going to be destroyed for a DTC Depot proposed there. The youth of the village under the banner Bakkarwala Gram Yuva samiti were agitated at the prospect of losing the natural resource. This 21 acres was the last commons left in village and the water bodies had clean water in them that quenched the thirst of passing by animals. Diwan Singh joined the villagers in their efforts to save this resource and coordinated various events and participated in protests. When armed police came to assist Revenue dept in handing over possession, the team resisted in true satyagraha manner. The efforts were successful. The land and the water bodies are safe today with plantation done by residents on it.
In 2011-12, we conducted a survey of water bodies in 50 villages in South West Delhi. To our dismay, it was found that out of 183 water bodies, 28 are not in official records. 93 water bodies were found to be dry, 63 were dirty with sewage water in them and rest 27 had clean water in them but most were filled artificially by tube wells to cater to animal husbandry needs of villagers.
Formation of Dwarka Water Bodies revival committee: Since 2011, we were pursuing revival of a water body in village Pochanpur, Sec-23, Dwarka. Our efforts over next two years, involving shraamdaan (volunteer labor), awareness raising, media networking and continuous engagement with Delhi Development Authority (DDA) led to formation of the Dwarka Water Bodies Revival Committee by the Honorable Lt. Governor of Delhi. This committee is meeting regularly every month and work is going on for revival of at least 10 water bodies in Dwarka area. Diwan Singh is a member of this committee.
Yamuna Floodplains Scheme
A non invasive scheme to ‘Preserve and Use’ the Yamuna floodplains as a natural water storage that can store and recharge, from monsoon discharge, the equivalent of 2/3 of Delhi’s water supply worth over $ 1.5 billion each year. The scheme, conceived by Dr. Soni , received a good response from Yamuna River Development Authority (YRDA), the Prime Minister’s Committee on the Yamuna, which adopted it.
The Lt. Governor, head of this committee, appointed CGWB to study this scheme. Acknowledging the merits of this scheme, the Yamuna River Development Authority (YRDA),after an evaluation , directed a temporary moratorium( November 2007) subject to further studies,on further construction on the floodplains. Dr. Vikram Soni and Diwan Singh were incorporated as members of Technical Advisory Group (TAG) along with other expert agencies like CGWB, NIH and DJB. On 17th June, 2008, the LG of Delhi, heading the YRDA, after long deliberations and a study by CGWB, declared a permanent moratorium on further constructions on Yamuna Flood Plains. (click)
Initiative with the PM’s Secretariat
This has been taken much further with the good offices of the Prime Minister’s secretariat. In response to an initiative by Natural Heritage First, this has resulted in:
- an ongoing full scale study of the Yamuna Flood Plains.
- an implementation of the floodplain scheme for providing water for the city by having a computerized battery of tubewells fitted with piezometers to check salinity. Such tubewells will be run differentially and optimally. Pumping rates will be controlled to avoid overdrawing and waiting for the aquifer to recover after withdrawal.
- A first time notification of a ban on building on the Yamuna floodplains. (click)
Floodplains Scheme goes out
- We have extended the floodplain scheme in an ongoing collaboration to the cities of Lahore and Hyderabad ( Sind ) in Pakistan
- We are in collaboration to work a floodplain scheme that will provide all thr\e water for Brindaban and protect the rive Yamuna.
- We are in collaboration with Mr Upendra to implement a floodplain scheme on the river Draviavaty for Jaipur.
- We are in collaboration with organizations in Chennai and Bangalore to assess the carrying capacity of the city based on water availability.
- Chennai – to assess the annual water potential of all lakes and marshes and lakes
- Bangalore – to assess the annual water potential of all lakes and lakes
Talks / Presentations
At many colleges and schools (See Power Points in Visual section)
India International Centre
India Habitat Centre
Jawahar Lal Nehru University
And at international venues
Various environmental, scientific, planning and popular articles have been written. Many of them have in published in reputed journals and papers. (To see – go to Articles in Knowledge section)
A film on value of Yamuna Flood plains and another on protection of Ridge Forest in Delhi. (To see- go to films in Visual section)
The issues raised have enjoyed considerable media attention and continue to do so.
(To see- go to Press coverage in Activities section.)