The Basai wetland, spread across 260 hectares, was discovered as a birdwatching destination in 2001 when ornithologist and author Bill Harvey made a pit stop at the Basai railway track, en route the Sultanpur National Park. A 2001 field report of the Delhi Bird Club mentions that the Basai wetland is spread over an area bigger than Sultanpur national park, a landmark bird sanctuary a few kilometres further down the Gurugram-Sultanpur road. In May 2017, the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) granted permission to a construction company to set up a construction and demolition (C&D) waste treatment plant on a 3.5-acre plot in the wetland. The plant is estimated to treat over 500 tonnes of waste every day. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar laid the foundation stone of the plant on June 17, 2017. On June 22, a Delhi-based non-profit, Delhi Bird Foundation, filed a petition at the National Green Tribunal (NGT), stating that thousands of birds will lose their habitat if the C&D plant is constructed. The petitioner had sought a stay on the project contending that the Basai wetland, though not declared a wetland under the 2010 Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, was a valuable water body. In July 2017, the NGT ordered a status quo after taking note of the adverse impact of the C&D plant on the water body, namely, water pollution as a result of dumping of waste. However, on January 10, 2018, the NGT lifted its stay on the construction of the plant after perusing the revenue records and noting that the land in question has not been identified as a wetland by the Haryana government. More than 240 species of birds such as Marbled Teal, Sarus Crane, Black-necked Stork and Asian Dowitcher visit the wetland for their annual migration. Flamingos and Black Francolin, the state bird of Haryana, that were once common in the wetland are now rare visitors because of regular dumping of plastic and other waste even before the construction of the C&D plant has begun. According to the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, MCG officials claim that the area where the plant is coming up is degraded land and not a wetland at all. A study on the Basai wetland, published in the International Journal of Economic Research in October 2017, highlights how wetlands help in maintaining a healthy balance between the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and is a major source of groundwater recharge. The Basai wetland is critical to a city like Gurugram, which faces frequent flooding almost every monsoon. An open space like a wetland provides relief from waterlogging in the concrete jungles. Basai wetland also qualifies to be declared a Ramsar, site which implies that it has international importance, according to a 2004 survey by the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History. Citing a Central Groundwater Board report on all water bodies in the area being a source of groundwater recharge, the survey also stated that Basai wetland was important to Gurugram at a time when the city's groundwater level was falling at an alarming rate.
Demand/Contention of the Affected Community
Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:
Muncipal Corporation of Gurugram, National Green Tribunal, Haryana Urban Development Authority, Haryana State Pollution Control Board
Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:
IL&FS Environmental Infrastructure and Services Limited
Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:
Delhi Bird Foundation
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