While the Noida Authority maintained that an eco-sensitive zone of 100 metres around the Okhla Bird Sanctuary would be sufficient protection for the sanctuary, it remained tight-lipped on why constructions were allowed to come up around the sanctuary in the first place.
Most of the constructions, now affected by the National Green Tribunal’s order in October last year that barred all ‘building constructions within a 10-km radius of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary or within the eco-sensitive zone’, have affected over 45,000 homebuyers, who had invested in properties that were started as early as 2008 and many receiving environmental clearance from the state in 2007.
When asked why the Noida Authority had given permission for these constructions and why the directive issued by the National Board for Wildlife in 2005 that bars construction within a 10-km radius of sanctuaries wasn’t taken into account, officials were reticent.
An official said, “There were others before us who had taken those decisions. By the time the case came up in court, it was assumed by most that everything was above board.”
Another official admitted that there was a definite element of ignorance that led to the Noida Authority giving permission for constructions around the bird sanctuary. “Many of us weren’t aware of the NBW directive. So many constructions came up within a 10-km radius in both states (Delhi and UP), and this directive was never brought up,” the official said.
Meanwhile, the Authority said a boundary of 100 metres around the bird sanctuary would be sufficient since most birds residing in the Okhla Bird Sanctuary were migratory birds arriving from colder regions in October.
“These birds come around October and leave around February. And they form a majority of the bird population in the sanctuary. Also, their flightpath does not cross Noida. There are hardly any endangered species that live all around the year in the sanctuary. So what is the need for a boundary greater than 100 metres?” an official said.
According to records of the UP forest department, over 300 species of birds have been sighted in the sanctuary, of which around 45 per cent have been categorised as resident birds and only around 14 per cent as uncommon birds.
The official Okhla Bird Sanctuary website says, “… about 10 species of threatened birds recorded includes species of critically endangered (CR) birds, species of nearly threatened (NT) birds.”
Forest officials said the logic behind keeping a cushion area or a buffer