Bhartesh Singh Thakur
Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 24
Passing strictures on the poor functioning of National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB), the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pointed out decline in Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ) area in NCR and delay in its delineation.
The report was tabled before the Parliament on September 23.
The NCR presently comprises 14 districts of Haryana, entire Delhi, eight districts of Uttar Pradesh (UP) and two of Rajasthan.
Major natural features, identified as environmentally sensitive areas, like the extension of Aravali ridge in Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi; forest areas; the rivers and tributaries of major rivers; sanctuaries; major lakes and water bodies were demarcated as NCZ in the Regional Plan-2021.
The Regional Plan (RP)-2021, which was notified in 2005, after a delay of three and half years, had tentative boundaries of NCZ as it was prepared on basis of satellite imagery of 1999 without ground truthing.
When Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change raised the issue of mapping and delineation of forests and other ecologically sensitive areas in 2014, the NCRPB took the decision of delineation by each participating state based on ground truthing and verification of state revenue records. But it had not been completed even till September 2018, observed the CAG.
The NCRPB and the Union Environment Ministry accepted the audit observation.
“The fact remains that delay in delineation of NCZ has resulted in non-finalisation of Sub Regional Plan (SRP) of Haryana and Revised Regional Plan (RRP) 2021 and adverse implications for environmental issues,” said the CAG.
The CAG found that as per the analysis in June 2015 of the NCRPB, there was a decline in NCZ vis-a-vis figures contained in the RP-2021- decline in respect of Delhi was 15.43 per cent, while it was 43.88 per cent in UP, 25.97 per cent in case of Haryana and 11.18 per cent in case of Rajasthan.
“…there has been no improvement in the green area and NCZ in NCR. In fact, the position has deteriorated over a period of time. The lack of effectiveness of the Board is thus self-evident,” said the CAG report.
The CAG has pointed out that in case of “construction of Medical College with Teaching Hospital” in Mewat, Haryana, the NCRPB released two instalments of loan amounting to Rs 113.33 crore in 2010, despite environmental clearance and conversion of land use being pending. The project which was to be completed by May 2011 was completed in May 2015.
Also, for “Water Supply Scheme for Nalhar Medical College and Nuh Town” the NCRPB did not ensure availability of requisite land prior to releasing the loan of Rs 90.13 crore.
The project of four-laning of five roads in Rewari took six years more but no liquidated damages were levied as there was no such clause in the loan agreement, said the CAG report.
The Project Sanctioning and Monitoring Group (PSMG) granted assistance of Rs 1,648.37 crore, out of which Rs 1,562.93 crore was given to Haryana, in respect of those projects for which the SRPs were not formulated by the participating states.
While revising the RP 2021, the NCRPB accepted and incorporated “tourism in the forest areas” in January 2014 as per the proposals of Haryana, despite objections. Subsequently, the Environment Ministry had raised objection in March 2014 and the NCRPB had to roll it back in April 2014.
“This indicates undue benefit to the Govt. of Haryana with adverse ramification for the entire NCR,” said the CAG.