Fear of sleepless nights to ‘feeling like baratis’: Jewar farmers voice concerns on giving land for airport

NOIDA: Tree felling, groundwater exploitation, dust and noise pollution were among the major concerns expressed on Tuesday during a public hearing held by the district administration, seeking objections and suggestions with regard to the proposed airport in Jewar.
“The project will have an adverse impact on the environment. The administration takes action against us if we burn even a fistful of crop residue. But now, they will chop scores of trees and extract gallons of groundwater for the project,” said Nanak Baba, a resident of Banbaribas village.

“We feel like baratis. The marriage has been fixed, and we will get sweets and leave soon,” he added.

Nanak wasn’t alone. Most of 200 farmers, who attended the meeting organised as part of an assessment mandated by the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF), claimed that they were in a dilemma. The administration is supposed to submit a report, incorporating all objections and suggestions from the farmers, to MoEF for environment clearance.

Mukesh Kumar, a local resident, said the people living in the area had been using groundwater, causing water tables to go down gradually. “The airport will directly impact the groundwater and people of nearby villages will suffer. Plus, frequent flights will disturb sleep of local people who are not used to any noise at night,” he argued.

Anand Arya, a Noida-based photographer who also attended the meeting, sought to know about wetlands falling in the project area. “The Supreme Court, in a judgment last year, had asked (authorities concerned) to protect wetlands measuring above 2.25 hectares. The district administration should survey the entire area and reveal the number of wetlands located near the project site. For example, Dhanauri wetlands, merely 20km from the site, is home to 211 species of resident and migratory birds,” he claimed.

Arya also stressed that the government should ensure flight routes do not disturb the birds’ central Asian flyway.

District officials, however, claimed there was no wetland within the 10km radius of the project site. Dhanauri wetlands, Surajpur wetlands and Okhla Bird Sanctuary are at least 30km from the site or beyond.

In a presentation during the meeting, the officials stated that a total of 6,721 trees, including teak, sal, mango, neem, arjun etc., would be felled for the project. This massive assault on the greenery will also affect the populations of neelgai, squirrel, sarus crane and peacock found in the area.

Balram Singh, ADM ( acquisition), Gautam Budh Nagar, said enough trees would be planted, and construction would be done following the MoEF guidelines to check pollution. “The government will also set up water harvesting system and solid waste management system. We will incorporate all comments and suggestions and send a report to the government for environment clearance,” Singh said.

The protests by villagers threaten to affect the deadline of the airport project. After taking consent of the villagers, the administration will have to prepare a report on the rehabilitation of farmers whose land is being acquired for the proposed. Officials hope to be ready with the report in the first week of December. The report, which will also list the amount of compensation to be awarded for each plot, is crucial to set the ball rolling on the actual acquisition of land.

The district administration has been racing against time to get a door-to-door survey of the land and its owners done by November 30.

There is another section of farmers who have been demanding four times compensation. Their consent will also have to be taken for the report to be sent to the Centre for an approval.

Apart from the trees felled, the administration will also assess the value of standing crops on land that would be acquired.

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