A shiv linga near Okhla Bird Sanctuary has raked up differences between local villagers and environmentalists. Environmentalists say this could well be the first step towards the construction of a temple and subsequent encroachment on government land.
The crematorium, where the idol stands, is mostly used by villagers from Noida. Ved Prakash, the Harola village pradhan, says a shiv linga or a Kali idol is a common sight inside a crematorium.
"It all starts this way," said Vikrant Tongad, a green activist, who believes the shiv linga is just a way to encroach upon land. "First there will only be an idol, and then a complete temple. Soon, people will start visiting and the area will be commercialised."
"If a temple comes up in the area, it will wreak havoc on the natural bird habitat. A crematorium in the vicinity is bad enough already. The shiv linga and the crematorium both need to go," he added.
When City Spidey spoke to IC Singh, forest ranger at Okhla Bird Sanctuary, he said that the idol was placed there by villagers. "Although the idol is placed in an eco-sensitive zone near the sanctuary, it doesn't quite pose a threat," he said. "If in case they attempt to build a temple, we will definitely intervene."
City Spidey also discussed the issue with AK Awasthi, conservator of forests, Meerut, who echoed the same sentiments as Singh.
Environmentalists are not amused at the the Forest Department's reaction and demand the immediate shifting of both the shiv linga and the crematorium.