Neela Hauz cries for attention

One of the many natural water bodies in Delhi dying a slow death for lack of concern is the Neela Hauz. Located near Vasant Kunj, it is the biggest natural water body in South Delhi and used to be the only source of water for the large Sanjay van.

For years, it fed the myriad varieties of flora and fauna here, though, today it lies in shambles post the construction of a flyover during the Commonwealth Games.

Legend has it that Neela Hauz was a major water source for the Rajput city of Qila Rai Pithora and also a halt on the trade route to Delhi. Studies have shown that it was the part of a much larger watershed that drained this part of the Aravallis and, through a system of nallahs, reached Yamuna.

Environmentalists say that till some time back it also served as the breeding ground for a specific variety of fish called the Cat Fish (singhara) besides being a seasonal attraction for migratory birds.

Hundreds of Neel gai, jackals, hare, porcupine, hedgehogs, mongoose, snakes and rodents in Sanjay van also drew their sustenance from this lake.

Things, though, changed with the construction of a flyover over it during CWG and have not improved since inspite of petitions in the High Court and promises by municipal authorities.

Historian Sohail Hashmi informs us, “Vasant Kunj residents and JNU students first noticed the construction of this flyover in 2009 and all the debris being dumped into the lake. They filed a petition with HC and the government assured us that post CWG, not only will the lake be restored but a biodiversity park will also be developed around it.

Sadly, two and a half years after CWG, none of the promises have been fulfilled.”
Locals say that the problem is not the absence of progress, but progress in a wrong direction leading to further deterioration of the lake.

Malavika Kaul, member of the Neela Hauz Citizens Forum, says, “After receiving court orders, the authorities started to remove the harmful cover of water hyacinth which was heartening, but post that, they started cutting the Aravalli rocks in the vicinity which are now filling up the lake.”

“All the natural undergrowth has been removed which actually serves as a habitat for many animals. After all, a forest is supposed to look like a forest and not a manicured DDA park. Then, they are planting trees which do not belong to this area and are constructing a car park nearby for visitors to the proposed biodiversity park when the park itself is nowhere in sight.”

Sohail adds, “With just the water hyacinth removed, we have seen a marked improvement in the flora and fauna here. For example, migratory birds have started to visit the lake again. We wonder that if the lake is brought back to its original pristine form, how beautiful it will look and what an oasis of biodiversity it will be.”

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