Green activists urged the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) on Tuesday to not use the exercise of defining the Aravallis as an excuse to dilute the existing green cover which is less than 4% in Haryana.
Last week, a meeting of urban development officials and forest officials from Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan, decided to include all non-cultivable land and sandy areas in ecologically sensitive zones in the region as Aravallis. They will present this decision in the next meeting of the NCRPB.
Though green activists welcomed this move, they suspect that the proposal will not be passed by the NCRPB as implementation of the Aravalli notification has been pending for decades.
“The Haryana government has not implemented the Aravalli Notification of 1992. By now, they would have figured out what the Aravalli is and could have identified the forest region for demarcating Natural Conservation Zones (NCZs),” Chetan Aggarwal, an environment analyst, said.
Experts said they are not convinced by the move as between 2005 and 2012, the government ignored the mandatory provision of the NCZ in a slew of master plans, including Gurgaon-Manesar Urban Complex (GMUC 2021) issued in 2007, GMUC 2025 issued in 2010 and Mangar Draft DP 2031 issued in 2012. It was only in the Sohna-Faridabad Development Plan (FDP) 2031, and the GMUC and FDP 2031, that the town and country planning acknowledge NCZs.
Instead of demarcating NCZs, the town and country planning department has been trying to dilute the cap on construction -- 0.5% -- in NCZ areas, activists said.
“In 2013, the cap on construction in NCZs was omitted from the Draft Revised Regional Plan 2021 for NCR on the request of the Haryana government (as recorded in the minutes of the meeting of the Planning Committee meeting of the NCRPB in June 2013). The limit was restored in the next planning committee meeting, but an exception clause was added. It was only after the intervention of the MoEF in 2014 that Haryana finally agreed to retain the original formulation of 0.5% limit on construction in NCZs,” Jitender Bhadana, member of an NGO -- Save Aravali -- said.
Activists pointed out that between April 2014 and August 2016, there have been numerous attempts to come up with new interpretations of which areas should be included in NCZs.
The Haryana government has written to the NCRPB saying that they do not know the definitions of the Aravallis, forest, and groundwater recharge areas. This will delay the process of including all non-cultivated areas in forest category, activists said.
“The interest of the real estate stakeholders is the driving force behind attempts to dilute forest and NCZ demarcation of the Aravallis. Some of these stakeholders are already seeking licences to construct in the Aravalli hills and the only thing stopping them is the NCZ or forest tag,” SS Oberoi, a legal activist, said.