Game of The Games
The 2010 Commonwealth Games is being glorified as a grand coup d'état for India, especially for Delhi. The event has set numerous developmental projects on fire. The most ambitious of these projects is the 118-acre Games Village for the sportspersons visiting Delhi during the games. But, the story doesn’t end here…
Plans to construct multi-storied housing complexes, roads, metro stations, power stations, stadiums, restaurants, and a shopping mall are in the pipeline. Rs. 3,000 to 5,000 crore is to be spent for these projects that are going to make Delhi "a global metropolis and a world-class city". But, behind this tantalising dream lies a dark reality.
What lies beneath...
The proposed site for the Games Village is none other than the Yamuna floodplain! Several infrastructure projects such as the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) Control Area, powerhouses and bridges like the Delhi NOIDA Direct (DND) Flyway, which connects NOIDA, an industrial satellite town, to Delhi, are already located on the Yamuna riverbed. The enormous Village will come up next to the Akshardham temple that is built over an area of 100 acres on the floodplain.
The site for the Village is on a faultline and the area is prone to earthquakes and floods. Until a few years back, the Yamuna would flood and submerge the entire area! Now, he distance across the river channel has been reduced from four km to 500m! This has increased the risk of flooding, as the river does not have its fertile expanse anymore. The Village site is thus the most vulnerable area.
The Yamuna floodplain is home to at least 15 plant species and 97 bird species, along with various other life forms! They would either be destroyed or driven out of their natural habitat.
These projects would clear many hundreds of cres of land. All natural vegetation would be destroyed and new breeds of vegetation may be introduced. All of these would require more water, fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides to maintain. This may cause contamination of groundwater and the river.
The land has always served to recharge Delhi’s groundwater. Constructing such a huge structure on the open land would also decrease the groundwater catchment area (area in which water, especially rainwater, runs down to the lowest point via creeks and collects to form groundwater).
Building over the Yamuna floodplain will either obliterate the river, or will set the stage for a massive man-made disaster.
A similar kind of construction spree was spurred by the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi. Many structures, stadiums and flyovers were built. But now, these are either lying vacant or house senior officials.Construction on a floodplain also reminds us of the 2005 floods in New Orleans that submerged nearly 80 per cent of the city.
But, the Urban Development Ministry says it has no choice, as 16.5 hectares of open space is not easily available. Minister for Urban Development Ajay Maken has assured that “nothing will be done without environmental clearances, not an inch will be constructed”.
Whatever the promises may be, Yamuna's transformation seems on the cards!