Neela Hauz may turn blue soon

DDA and DJB to restore the south Delhi pond by 2013
Neela Hauz may turn blue soon

Under the orders of the Delhi High Court, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) is in the process of restoring Neela Hauz, a large pond in south Delhi. By March 2013, it is scheduled to complete the work that involves removing weed and hyacinth infestation, dredging, planting local trees and shrubs and constructing walking tracks. The pond will be merged with the neighbouring Sanjay Van, a protected forest under DDA in the Southern Ridge.

Delhi Jal Board (DJB), the other agency concerned with the restoration, has partially intercepted the inflow of untreated sewage from the neighbouring urban village of Kishangarh. A recent inspection showed residents are using a new drain as a sewage outlet that ends up in the Hauz. DJB will be diverting this as well. The sewage is to be treated at the Vasant Kunj sewage treatment plant (STP) from where water eventually flows to the Hauz Khas lake.

The pond was partially filled during the construction of a bridge as part of the Commonwealth Games building frenzy, in 2008. Residents of neighbouring Vasant Kunj took up the issue of restoration with Delhi’s chief minister, Sheila Dikshit, and Lieutenant Governor Tejendra Khanna. They formed the Neela Hauz Citizens Group and filed a public interest litigation and numerous right to information applications to ensure restoration of the lake.

On February 15, this year, the Delhi High Court ordered restoration to be completed by March 2013. The Public Works Department deposited Rs 3.5 crore with the state government for restoration and compensatory afforestation. DDA is using this money for restoration work. DJB will draw a plan to intercept untreated sewage entering the Hauz within about eight months. Earlier, DJB had submitted in court that it would complete the work by March 2012. According to a DJB survey on July 25, last year, the sewage is from several sources, including the Inter University Accelerator Centre, International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Kishangarh village, an industrial centre, a mall and a slum.

The citizens group favours inflow of treated sewage to maintain water levels in the lake since it is otherwise dependent solely on rainwater. The Vasant Kunj STP’s effluent has a biological oxygen demand of around 12 milligrams per litre that is higher than the desirable level for discharge into waterbodies; this has to be suitably treated before release, says DJB’s chief executive officer Debashree Mukherjee. As much of its catchment has been taken up by institutions, rainwater flows into the Neela Hauz have been substantially reduced. The group’s convenor Anu Mehrotra says, “We are happy that DDA has started cleaning the water, else they would have spent the money on beautification and done little or no cleaning.”

The Neela Hauz covers around 2.5 hectares and has a rich assortment of fauna and flora. Since it is located in an extremely dry and rocky part of the city, maintaining the water table level is critical. Legend has it that the Neela Hauz was a major water source for the Rajput city of Qila Rai Pithora and also a halt on the trade route to Delhi. Studies have shown that Neela Hauz was a part of a much larger watershed that drained this part of the Aravallis and, through a system of nallahs, reached the River Yamuna.

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