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Relief, at last! Curtailed Okhla ESZ cheers all

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An overambitious decision of the green regulator which had virtually crushed the dreams of thousands of homebuyers in Noida and caused f 2,000-crore hit to the local economy has finally been dumped, after 22 long months. With the Centre clearing a highly curtailed area around the Okhla Bird Sanctuary as the eco-sensitive zone, homebuyers and realtors in the area have heaved 5sigh of relief. Thousands can move into their dream homes, development activity can be revived and Authorities can earn revenue by issuing registration and completion certificates.

Finally, its 100 metres! Against the humongous 10-km ‘no-go’ radius earmarked by the National Green Tribunal around the Okhla Bird Sanctuary, the Centre has now settled for a more practical and feasible stretch.

In a major relief, the Government has drastically curtailed the eco-sensitive zone around the sanctuary near Noida to 100 metres on three sides, a move that will enable builders to finish their projects and hand over the apartments to the buyers. Whereas the green zone will now be applicable to an area of up to 100 metres from the eastern, western and southern boundaries of the sanctuary, from the northern side the buffer zone will extend up to 1.27 km.

The decision to notify the eco-sensitive zone was taken at a meeting of the standing committee of National Board for Wildlife, chaired by the Union Environment & Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar.

The decision immediately ends the agonising wait for about 55,000 homebuyers who have been facing the double whammy of paying loan EMls as well as house rent as they could not get the delivery of their new homes falling in the 1O km-radius of the sanctuary. It also allows the builders to restart work on a host of projects which were under various stages of construction.


Most significantly, the truncated ‘no-construction’ zone will prove to be a positive signal for Noida-Greater Noida property market and boost housing demand in the region. Javadekar summed up these very sentiments when he said after the August 18 meeting of the NBWL that the decision had ended the “confusion” on the issue and all NGT orders were complied with. “lt is a big relief for homebuyers who had booked flats. Some of them are already paying EMI. Hard-earned money of people had been invested there. They will get relief. The confusion has ended.

The orders of the NGT have been fully followed,” he said. The magnitude of the impact the decision will have on the developers’ fortunes and the industry at large was evident from the reactions that poured in from across the sector. “This will have a positive impact on the real estate and construction sector in the National Capital Region. All projects that had been stalled in Noida can now resume. The location will also see more housing sales along with office occupier and retail space leasing in forthcoming months.

Capture 2Hopefully, with the real estate market opening up once more in the area, homebuyer demand will pick up as well”, said Anshuman Magazine, Chairman & MD, CBRE South Asia.

Getamber Anand, President of the real estate developers’ umbrella body Credai, dubbed the newly-defined green cushion as a “very good news for 55,000 buyers whose homes were ready but they could not occupy it”. Overall, he said about one lakh homes are currently being developed in this region. He said the development would send a positive signal to Noida-

Greater Noida property market and boost housing demand. Another real estate industry body Naredco said the decision will give respite to both customers as well as developers, who have been stuck in a limbo for long due to halt in any construction activity falling in1 0-km radius of the bird sanctuary. Navin Raheja, Chairman of the National Real Estate developers’ Council, said, “The move will also enable fast track completion of commercial projects thereby boosting economic activity in the area. This is a positive move which will improve investor sentiments and customers will not be held up due to lengthy litigation

Capture 3It was the National Green Tribunal’s order of October 28, 2013 which had been keeping the hopes of homebuyers and developers in a limbo for almost two years. The tribunal in its order had merely repeated what a petitioner, Noida resident and environmentalist Amit Kumar, had stated. The tribunal in its order, surprisingly, didn’t get into the implications of building high-rises near bird sanctuaries beyond merely repeating what the petitioner had stated.

In a petition filed through advocate Gaurav Kumar Bansal, the environmentalist had sought a halt to allegedly illegal and unauthorised construction being I undertaken by builders within 10 km radius of the OBS. He had contended that without prior NBWL or SERA clearance, around 55 builders were carrying out construction work around the sanctuary. This, he had said, was against the National Forest Policy and Conservation Strategy, 2002, which stated that 10 km (aerial distance) radius should be treated as an eco-sensitive zone beyond the protected area as per the provisions of the Wildlife protection Act.


Besides issuing an interim direction saying building construction within the 10-km radius of the sanctuary shall be subject to the decision of the National Wildlife Board, the NGT had restrained the Authorities concerned from issuing completion certificates to projects which were ready for handover.

Builders were allotted land by the Noida Authority near the sanctuary in 2008. The 55 projects mentioned in the NGT’s October 201 3 order were located in Sectors 44, 45, 46, 50, 52, 76, 78, 94, 96, 97, 98, 107, 110, 120, 121, 122, 125, 127, 128, 129, 131, 132, 133, 134,135 and 137. The Okhla Bird Sanctuary was declared a protected wildlife habitat on May 8, 1 990, by the UP Government under the Indian Wildlife Protection Act.

Capture 5The NGT’s 10-km decision had hit major developers including Jaypee Green, DLF, Supertech, ATS, Amrapali and 3C Developers. Flats in 50 projects could not be delivered to owners because the court barred officials from issuing certificates that declare the buildings are legit. Residential projects in Noida have been running behind schedule by an average of 36 to 48 months because of the delay in resolving the issue. Sales for flats in Noida took a big hit with home-seekers unsure of how safe their investments would remain.

The freshly-notified eco-sensitive zone falls in Gautam Budh district of Uttar Pradesh and the South East district of the National Capital Territory. The areas identified as falling under the ESZ are Sector 95 in Noida, Chhalera Orangabad, Nayabans areas in UP besides Shaheen Bagh, Jasola, Abul Fazal enclave, Okhla, Canal colony, Joga Bai and Khizrabad in Delhi.

Besides reviving the hopes of thousands of homebuyen, the finality about a shrunk and more feasible green zone has bolstered developers’ sentiments about their stuck projects. Media reports quoting corporates sources suggest that for realty major DLF, the green clearance ensures that Noida Mall can be completed in three-four months. Besides, the DLF Mall of India, which is already complete, can be given out for rentals. The decision will allow the JP lnfra Group to give possession of 5,000 houses immediately. Approximately 20,000 flats of Jaypee lnfra fell within the 10-m radius. Amrapali Group in a communication to Realty & More said it has about 10,000 apartments ready to be handed over to buyers in Sectors 120, 1 19,76, 50 and 45 and more than 5,000 flats are under construction at Noida. Most buyers want to take possession during this year and the Group is now fully prepared for that, it claimed.

The August 18 NBWL decision and a subsequent notification the next day about the highly curtailed green zone expectedly won huge applause from the entire real estate community. In their response sent to Realty & More, builders across the spectrum lauded the Government for having adopted a more practical approach thereby removing the Damocles’ sword hanging over a host of projects.


CaptureDeepak Kapoor, President Credai Western UP & Director, Gulshan Homz, said, “It’s a big relief for the homebuyers as well as the developers of the region as finally projects will be handed over to the respective homebuyers and development will resume in the previously affected regions. Few months back we had a top verdict for the Greater Noida West market and now the Noida market has got the decision they were waiting for. This will now allow barrier-free development of the region and the sentiments that had dented will come back to the market.”

DLF Group Executive Director Rajeev Talwar was quoted in the media as saying, it’s an extremely positive step taken by the Government. He said, though, it is little delayed “but it will provide huge relief to homebuyers whose flats were ready more than a year back but they were unable to occupy them”. Talwar said this would also be “opening up huge employment opportunities and economic turnover when the commercial and retail establishments get occupation certificates.”

Home Dreams Get Flight Again Supertech Chairman RK Arora told Realty & More, “The decision of the Ministry of Environment & Forests to notify certain areas as eco-sensitive zone around Ohkla Bird Sanctuary, is a welcoming move. It was a long pending issue resolution of which now will give a sigh of relief to the customers as well as developers.

The decision will enable the allottees of flats in completed projects getting possession, and the developers to complete the projects. In Arora’s view, the notification will also boost the sentiments of buyers which will “ultimately help the real estate market to boom.”

According to Prashant Tiwari, Chairman of Prateek Group & Vice-president, Credai Western UP, “We welcome this news from the Ministry of Environment.

Now the Government should swiftly implement this order so that the authorities can provide the competition certificate and possession could go to customers. Tiwari told R&M, “This move will also improve the market sentiments in huge way in Noida and Greater Noida and I hope to see an upward trend in sales in this upcoming quarter”.


Anil Kumar Sharma, CMD of Amrapali Group, whose many projects were stuck in the imbroglio, was ecstatic about the fresh development. “This is welcome news for nearly 55,000 buyers and for nearly 2.5 lakh people who were stranded because of this issue,” he told Realty & More.

Now, he said, “People can look forward to move into their new homes which were ready for possession for a long time.” Adding further, Sharma said, “When we look at the bigger picture, it is not just the buyer who is relieved but also many others who were looking to start businesses or earn their livelihood from schools, hospitals, retail stores and other small businesses. The investors and other financial institutions who have invested their money will also get relief from this decision.”

Capture 4Welcoming the decision, Credai national Vice-president Rohit Raj Modi, said: “This decision was awaited and much expected by the more than 50,000 families who had invested their hard-earned income for their dream home in Noida. This has come as a big relief for them”. The move would provide big boost to Noida real estate market as buyers and investors were holding back the decision to purchase homes, he said.

Summing up the impact of the move, Ajnara India CMD Ashok Gupta, said, “The under construction projects will finally resume, completed projects will get the completion certificate, buyers who had invested will get the handover and most importantly; the property demand in Noida that had gone stagnant will yet again see an upward movement in the graph”!

Rupesh Gupta, Director, JM Housing, commented, “All the projects that were falling under the radar will now get the completion certificate and homebuyers will be able to move into to their dream homes. The affected underconstruction projects will recommence and this construction work will further help in generating demand for real estate in Noida”. said, “The notification clubbed with the non-increment in circle rates for group housing apartments, will bring an overall positive swing in the sentiment on both sides – buyers as well as developers.”

According to Sanjay Rastogi, Director, Saviour Builders,: “It is a big relief for homebuyers who were the worst sufferers, as they had invested their hard- earned money and were paying EMls since years. The decision will impact the developers and the Authority also, he said, explaining, “The buyer sentiments will improve once the possession is given and the Authority will also generate revenue through stamp duty.


“The notification clubbed with the non-increment in circle rates for group housing apartments, will bring an overall positive swing in the sentiment on both sides – buyers as well as developers.” Calling it a welcome relief for buyers in Noida who have been waiting to register and move into their ready units for long, Brijesh Bhanote, Director (Sales & Marketing) Lotus Greens, said, “The notification clubbed with the non-increment in circle rates for group housing apartments, will bring an overall positive swing in the sentiment on both sides – buyers as well as developers.”

According to Sanjay Rastogi, Director, Saviour Builders,: “It is a big relief for homebuyers who were the worst sufferers, as they had invested their hard- earned money and were paying EMls since years. The decision will impact the developers and the Authority also, he said, explaining, “The buyer sentiments will improve once the possession is given and the Authority will also generate revenue through stamp duty.

Owais Usmani, MD, Presidency Infraheights, said the latest decision about the green around the Okhla Bird Sanctuary “will bring joy to the buyers who were waiting to get possession since quite some timeN.lna similar vein, Sudeep Agarwal, MD, Shri Group, stated that “Thousands of anxious homebuyers as well as developers will finally find comfort with the news of reduction in eco-sensitive zone around the Okhla Bird Sanctuary.”

Capture 5Looking at the bigger picture in the context of NCR realty scenario, Samir Jasuja, CEO and Founder of PropEquity, said, “Many buyers have paid close to the entire amount for their homes in these locations, but in the light of the NGT orders, they were clueless about moving into their new homes or even sell off their apartments. A few years ago, Noida Extension had seen farmers protesting against land acquisition in the area, which had led to all construction activity coming to a halt.”

All such cases, he said, had been affecting market sentiment negatively in the last few years. “Buyers in NCR are unsure about getting early relief, since developers halt work as soon as any new court ruling comes in. Court cases, on the other hand, tend to drag on for very long. Endusers not only have to shoulder the burden of paying EMls but also their ongoing monthly rentals, while simultaneously remaining unsure of when they will start getting returns on their capital values.” Hence, he said, the move by the Environment Ministry “might help restore confidence in the sector for both buyers and builders.”