Night safari: Samajwadi Party’s dream project yet to see light of day

Call it a jinx or lack of viability, another dream project of the Samajwadi Party (SP) government, the night safari in Greater Noida, has failed to take off past the extended deadline for inviting bids from developers on November 22. Barely a fortnight ago, another high priority infrastructure project of the SP government, the Agra Expressway, met a somewhat similar fate.

Initially, Greater Noida Authority had fixed November 15, as deadline for accepting bids from developers for the safari, but due to dismal response from prospective bidders, the authority’s general manager (Planning) Leena Sehgal announced extension of deadline to November 22. When contacted for specifics on bidders after the second deadline, Sehgal refused to comment. “I am not the appropriate authority to comment,” she said when contacted by TOI on Tuesday evening. Sources said even the top brass of the GNA was quiet on the issue as no one wanted to stand out acknowledging the fact that the project had failed to take off the way the SP government had wanted it to.

Interestingly, while the Agra expressway was conceptualised in 2007 it was rechristened Greenfield Expressway and tagged as a top priority project by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav in 2012, the Night Safari was conceptualized by his father Mulayam Singh Yadav in 2005 when he was the chief minister of UP. Yet, the projects have failed to take shape till date for one reason or the other.

A first of its kind in India, the Night Safari was proposed to come up across a 102-acre stretch in Mursheedpur reserve forest of Greater Noida on the lines of a similar Safari in Singapore. The project however failed to take off from the drawing board of the GNA initially for want of the all important nod from the Central Zoo Authority (CZA). The GNA had by then also tied up with Singapore-based Bernard Harrison, the man behind setting up night safaris in other Asian countries.

Once approved by the CZA, the project landed before the Supreme Court for clearance since the apex court had by then banned all new zoo projects taking into account pathetic condition of the existing ones. The SC nod came in January 2009. But since the SP government had been voted out of power by then, the project was shelved by the BSP chief minister Mayawati.

It was not before the SP came back to power on March 15, 2012 that the two projects were taken up afresh by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav. The project got an in-principle approval from the CM to come up alongside the Gautam Buddhnagar University in Greater Noida. In August, the UP cabinet sanctioned the project.

Though the poor response from bidders for the night safari was being attributed to the poor law and order situation in Western UP, another somewhat similar safari proposed by the Karnataka government in 2002 and was supposed to come up at Bannerghatta Biological Park, some 22 kilometers from Bangalore, had to be scrapped in January 2012 on the directions of the Supreme Court following a petition by wildlife activists.

Similarly, expressway projects in Uttar Pradesh too have a history of being delayed by decades behind schedule. The Taj Expresssway project was announced in 2001 by then CM Rajnath Singh. But the project could not start because of a change of government in the state in 2003. It was revived in 2007 when Mayawati regained power and renamed it Yamuna Expressway.

Yamuna Expressway project was implemented by Jaypee Group. In May 2012, Jaypee Group informed state government officials that its construction had been completed. The expressway was inaugurated formally on August 9, 2012 by chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, via videoconference from Lucknow, about two years behind of its original target completion date.


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