Professor emeritus at the Department of Environmental Studies, DU, C.R. Babu has helped develop biodiversity parks along the Yamuna. In a conversation with Ushinor Majumdar, the member of the NGT-appointed expert committee explains how they estimated the restoration cost of Art of Living’s World Culture Festival:
How did the expert committee estimate Rs 100-120 crore as cost for restoration?
We had photographed the damages and estimated the cost of the damage and restoration. The debris which has been flattened on the ground and is now at different depths, will have to be removed with JCBs. The restoration process will not be easy and then you have to rebuild the wetland communities and bring back the vegetation.
How long will it take?
It will take between five to 10 years as per our experience in restoring other floodplains around Delhi such as Jagatpur where we developed a biodiversity park. You have to regain the sedimentation and develop vegetation. In Bahadurgarh, the government had diverted the planned route of a road project to preserve biodiversity.
What kind of damage did you observe?
AoL filled the wetlands, destroying the entire sedimentation. The Barapulla drain discharges its contents into the wetlands, which purifies the water before it enters the Yamuna. AoL has completely destroyed the wetlands by filling it with construction debris and the floodplain and wetland vegetation such as tamarix shrubs were smashed. These are not just plants but a complete harmonious community of vegetation and fauna, including fish, plankton and so on. They all have a role to play in the ecological balance.
But the field now appears to have been levelled.
The floodplain has a loose soil which has now been compacted with debris. The high footfall during the event compacted it further. This has made the soil hard, preventing water from seeping into the aquifer. When it rained recently, puddles of water had formed on the surface of the floodplain, which does not happen normally.
Should the DDA hold on to such ecologically sensitive land?
DDA owns most of the land along the Yamuna. The Delhi masterplan 2021 has a chapter on environment to improve the environment and quality of life. In Chicago, the trees trap 5.2 metric tonnes of air pollutants per year with an annual saving of USD 9.5 million. DDA is preparing a proposal for a green circuit of all green spaces in Delhi connected to the floodplains. Before the WCF, the NGT had accepted the expert committee’s report suggesting a Barapulla Biodiversity Park at the same spot which would be an educational, conservational and cultural importance and bring back our natural heritage.
A shorter, edited version of this appears in print