While the Forest Survey of India and other records maintain that the forest and tree cover in Gurgaon is consistently increasing, the area is actually reducing every year as the forest land is diverted for social infrastructure works such as constructing roads and railway lines.
Even as the greenery has made way for black-top roads, the areas continue to be recorded under the forest area by default.
Gurgaon has already lost 8% of its total forest area because of this policy since 1980, when the Forest Conservation Act came into effect.
These areas continue to be recorded under the forest area, despite having no greenery.
The total protected forest area in Gurgaon is about 1,600 hectares, which is about 2% of the total area of the city, according to forest department records.
Of this, about 130 hectares have already been diverted for various purposes.
This area does not include forests under sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900, as the status of this area is to be determined by the state government, after consultation with the ministry of environment.
“It’s ironic that we continue to record the diverted areas under forest area while they have been turned into railway lines and roads by disturbing the existing forest areas. These discrepancies lead to the creation of false records as the situation in reality is different from that on paper,” said Vasvi Tyagi, divisional forest officer, Gurgaon.
“We can’t help it as the policy needs to be changed,” Tyagi said, about the need to change the existing policy that paints a false picture.
Such policy flaws give a false idea that there is a larger forest area than what is actually existing.
With already low forest cover and repeated attempts at reducing forest areas under the Aravalli forests, the city may soon have less than 1% forest cover, according to the estimates of the forest department.
“The state is in the process of finalising the area under the forest category. If the areas protected under the Punjab Land Preservation Act, including the foothills and grasslands, are excluded from the forest category, the total forest area in Gurgaon would be about 0.5%”, said MD Sinha, conservator of forest, Gurgaon.
“What kind of urban development and planning would allow such little forest area?” Sinha said.
Environmentalists said that the rate of reduction in forest cover is a recipe for urban disaster.
Experts also say that authorities need to work towards increasing forest cover, especially in view of the rising pollution levels in Delhi and national capital region.