New Delhi: Several plans and a decade later, Delhi Development Authority has finally begun work on its ambitious plan to develop the Yamuna riverfront. In the first phase — the project will be implemented in four phases — DDA will create parks, wetlands, cycling tracks and a forested buffer area on 500 acres between Old Railway Bridge and ITO Bridge.
DDA recently informed the National Green Tribunal, which is monitoring the project, that the work on the western bank of the river will be completed by April 2018. In October, the agency planted close to 800 trees on the floodplain. It is now developing the area around the Golden Jubilee Park in Yamuna Pushta. A green buffer of 300m from the edge of the river will consist of floodplain forests and grassland with catchment wetlands.
“We will develop pathways in the green buffer for people to use. But it will be largely developed as a floodplain forest,” said an official. Even as the development activity picked up, DDA officials admitted to the problem of encroachment with land pockets now occupied by farmers and shanty dwellers. For instance, several farmers have built huts in the area adjacent to the Golden Jubilee Park, which was developed by DDA in 2007-08 on 30 acres of floodplain.
Though DDA has put up information boards stating that the ownership of land is vested in it, farmers claimed to have been living there for over three decades. “DDA officials say that they will demolish our hutments. Where will we go?” asked an anxious Reshma, who like other farmers grow vegetables there despite a ban on agricultural activity on the floodplain.
Kamal Lal, who runs a makeshift school near the Golden Jubilee Park, insisted that the land belonged to the people living there. “We had applied for electricity connections and had requested the area councillor to provide us with basic municipal services,” said Lal.
DDA officials say the riverfront development plan has taken into consideration flooding every 25 years. The Adequate holding space has been demarcated for this. In the green buffer area, DDA will plant species that can survive high water levels.
According to DDA officials, a 100-150m wide strip will be developed along the arterial road (Salimgarh Bypass) as ‘greenway’ for cyclists. “It will be a 3-5km long strip on the western bank,” said an official. And wherever it finds natural depressions, it will develop them into wetlands.