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Gurgaon Residents Rise up Against Malls
Saturday, May 31, 2008

Thirty-four resident associations of Gurgaon today requested the Supreme Court to stop proliferation of commercial complexes and save the city from "complete disaster" as unplanned development had sunk groundwater levels and created a power crisis.

In a petition filed through lawyer Nivedita Sharma, the residents demanded urgent intervention of the Haryana government and the Centre to ensure constant supply of power and water.

A two-judge bench of the apex court asked the two governments to respond to the plea. The court also issued notices to the Central Ground Water Board.

In their petition, the associations said malls and other commercial complexes had "adversely affected" the "quality of life and environment" and it was becoming "more acute with each passing day".

If immediate steps were not taken, Gurgaon, they said, would head for "complete disaster".

Those who signed the petition included the Qutab Enclave Residents' Welfare Association, Gurgaon Citizen's Council, Suncity Resident Welfare Society and the Federation of the Resident Welfare Association.

The four resident bodies claim to represent 80 per cent of Gurgaon's population residing in Huda (Haryana Urban Development Authority) sectors and in private colonies developed by real estate firms DLF and Unitech.

Gurgaon's official population is 16 lakh, though unofficial estimates put the figure at 20 lakh. The petition said the Haryana government had, in a span of 10-15 years, converted some 10,000 acres of farmland into a modern township of industrial, commercial and residential complexes.

"Massive development has been carried out without any planning in line with resources available, as a result Gurgaon and its adjoining areas have developed in (an) unsustainable manner," it said.

The petition said proliferating complexes had created a power crisis and residents had to suffer 12-hour-long power cuts because of the huge gap in supply and demand.

"A trickle of water less than 30 minutes once a day in the name of water supply even during the winter months was causing serious hardship to the petitioners and residents at large," it added.

The associations said they had a "genuine fear" that the power and water situation would "get worse" and they would not be able to "cope with it financially, environmentally and mentally".

They alleged that the state government had "deliberately, with mala fide intentions and without due application of mind" developed residential and commercial areas without making sufficient provision for water and power.

The resident bodies said over 70 per cent of the total demand for water was being met from groundwater sources and that the 18,000 borewells in the area was twice the number officially registered.

The state government, the petition added, had taken no steps to recharge groundwater or harvest rainwater. Despite the crisis, the state government, the residents claimed, "continues to grant licences for development of multi-storey commercial complexes, malls, office buildings requiring water to the tune of 2 to 5 lakh litres per day per building".

The residents also alleged that the developers had furnished wrong details - that their water requirement would be met from the municipal supply - to get clearances from the environment and forests ministry, and urged the court to set aside such licences.



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