The Northern Bypass road which was being constructed to link Delhi-Agra National Highway to Yamuna Expressway has now been stalled. The road would have cut through the protected Keetham forest.
Local environmentalists raised objections to this project and took it up with the Ministry of Environment. Devashish Bhattacharya, environmentalist and activist, said, "A few days ago I met Harsh Vardhan, the Environment Minister, who told me that the project was neither being considered nor any initiative taken. The Wildlife Board too had rejected the project.”
The Northern Bypass project was amongst the development projects announced by Union Transportation and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari.
Prior to this, a leather park was announced inside the Keetham forest. Keetham lake sees various species of migratory birds coming in the winter months. An area of 10km around it used to be an eco-sensitive zone, inside which such construction was not allowed. For the purpose of the leather park, however, the eco-sensitive zone was reduced to 250 metres.
Construction of the leather park was stayed when PILs were filed by environmental activists. However, construction began despite no clearance from Wildlife Board. The case for the leather project is still pending in the National Green Tribunal.
The entire stretch of land along the river Yamuna from Mathura to Agra's Bainpur range was developed to counter air pollution from the refinery and to check the march of the desert from Rajasthan.
"But colonisers and land grabbers have been eating away chunks of land through connivance with corrupt officials, threatening the fragile ecological balance in Agra," said social activist Shravan Kumar Singh of the Braj Mandal Heritage Conservation Society.
(with inputs from IANS)