`Outdated and foolish`

BUILDERS in Delhi are in a bind. The Supreme Court order to close down stone-crushing units around the Capital has hiked structural costs by 10-15 per cent. The Aravalli notification has drastically cut down prime land they have been opening up in Gurgaon, where land prices are less than a third of Delhi rates.

The builders are angry. "We have increased the tree cover in the region," says B K Sen of Unitech Ltd, a major construction company in Delhi. The builders have certificates for environmental rehabilitation, given to them by eminent environmentalist T N Khushoo, former secretary in the department of environment.

"It's an outdated and foolish notification," says an executive in a major building firm, who prefers to remain anonymous. "These days, building byelaws themselves don't allow us to degrade the environment, so why is this necessary?" The builders have launched a well-orchestrated campaign through advertisements and well-placed statements in the press.

Says N K Sehgal of Ansal Housing and Construction Ltd, "The notification's worst flaw is that it makes no distinction between the hills, which should be protected, and the plains, where development is no problem."

But Sehgal admits that housing costs will not rise beyond 3 per cent to 5 per cent because of the notification. "The bulk of the demand in these areas is for farmhouses, bought by people who have other houses in the city," he explained.