A committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to monitor cleaning of the Yamuna has recommended that the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) shift the Millennium Bus Depot as it lies on the river’s flood plain and said it is environmentally unsafe. The Yamuna monitoring committee, which comprises retired NGT expert member B S Sajwan and former Delhi chief secretary Shailaja Chandra, told the green panel that the DTC has been operating without necessary approvals and discharging waste water into the river.
The committee noted that the DTC had been given a temporary space for establishing the bus depot during the 2010 Commonwealth Games for maintaining and operating low floor buses. At the depot, several buses are washed and the waste water is discharged into an open space in the floodplain area, the committee noted. The two-member committee said on inquiry, it was apprised by a DTC representative that the corporation also repairs and maintains buses at the depot. The DTC is operating without consent, it said. The DTC representative also stated that it uses 20 kilolitres of treated waste water, taken from sewage treatment plants, for washing buses and there was no bore well installed at the depot. “The Delhi Pollution Control Committee also stated that hazardous substance like used engine oil and other oils/greases were being discharged and this was not brought to anyone’s notice and had continued for the last nine years,” the committee said in its report submitted to the NGT.
“Such effluent being discharged on a regular basis is bound to go into river water. It is not environmentally safe or advisable and since such activities are integral to the depot’s functioning, the DTC should find some other alternative space,” it said. This area being on the flood plain is not conducive to maintaining a healthy flood plain, the committee said. The tribunal had earlier directed an environment activist to approach the committee on his plea seeking shifting of the Millennium Bus Depot as it was located on the Yamuna flood plains. The green panel had formed the committee to constantly monitor on a day-to-day basis the cleaning of the Yamuna river.
The matter was transferred to the green panel by the Supreme Court in April last year on the grounds that there cannot be “parallel proceedings” on the same issue. The 50-acre depot was built on the river bank initially as a temporary depot during the Commonwealth Games with a parking space for around 1,000 buses along with various facilities, including five workshop-cum-scanning centres, a logistics centre and two CNG-filling stations.
The apex court had earlier said that ordering demolition of the bus depot would not be appropriate and had granted one year to the Delhi government and the DTC to get the 2021 Master Plan amended, failing which it would have to shift the bus shelter from the Yamuna river banks. The Supreme Court had said an opportunity was given by the Delhi High Court to the Delhi government and the DTC in October 2015 to have the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) 2021 amended, if it was permissible in law, within six months.
The high court had refused to extend the time to authorities to shift the bus depot, situated next to the Nizamuddin Bridge and behind IP Power Station. The apex court had noted that a chance was given by the high court keeping in view the submission of the Delhi government and the DTC that the “bus depot was constructed to serve greater public purpose; the area in question was, as a matter of fact, not falling on the river bed; and there was no threat to environment or ecology in having the bus depot at the given site”.
The DTC and the Delhi government had challenged the high court’s decision dismissing the transporter’s plea for grant of six months to approach the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to change the land use of the Millennium Bus Depot site. The DDA had told the court that change in land use was not possible as the NGT had prohibited construction in areas demarcated as zone ‘O’ (river and water-body area) and the site fell in such a zone.
The high court had on October 20, 2015 shot down the DTC’s plea on the issue, saying it was an abuse of the court process to seek extension of time after undertaking to shift it. The high court had also said that it had in 2012 given six months to either shift the depot or change land use of the site and there was “no justifiable reason” now for further extension.