Despite declaring the Mangar Bani a ‘no-construction’ zone, the Haryana government is yet to notify the area as forest land. Environmentalists on Sunday wrote to the government, appealing for inclusion of the area in the sub-regional plan and issuing the final notification to protect the area.
In February, Mangar was demarcated and the total area of Bani increased from 600.7 acres to 677.12 acres. The buffer was increased from 1,136.4 acres to 1,266.91 acres.
Mangar Bani is considered the last existing virgin forest area in Delhi-NCR. ‘Bani’ is a block of forest area with dense tree cover that falls within Mangar and Bandhwari villages.
Environmental activists said that the government needs to act quickly to notify the area as forest, as it is ecologically important to preserve the wildlife and green cover. In a letter to the principal secretary, environmentalists pointed out that government agencies are stalling on the issue.
“It is now 12 months since the last board meeting of the NCRPB and we are awaiting final notification of the Mangar Bani by your good office and the sub-regional plan for the Haryana NCR subregion notified in May 2014. It mentions the Mangar Bani but only with a buffer of 60 metres,” the letter stated.
“A state which is second lowest in the country in forest cover should take rigorous steps to preserve its forest. At present, the government has just announced that Mangar comes under no-construction zone, however, a notification is required to protect the area,” Ameena Sherwani, an activist, said.
“The state and Central government authorities have been discussing the Mangar Bani forest area for years but have failed to provide any protection,” Vivek Khamboj, an environmentalist, said.
Government officials said that the state is still working on the issue. “We have asked the town and country planning department to demarcate the area on map. We will issue the notification soon,” P Raghavendra Rao, additional chief secretary, government of Haryana, said.
A report by the forest department states, “Ecologically, the whole forest needs to be preserved. Thus the best way forward would be to approve the proposal of the forest department to close the entire area that is 3,595 acres, under PLPA.”
Further, the report also mentions that the Aravalli mountain range near Mangar acts as a long running corridor for wildlife between the southern Aravallis in Rajasthan and the Delhi ridge. This corridor is host to a vast endemic floral diversity and are the last vestiges of the once rich biodiversity of the region, according to the report.
While the geographical boundaries of the Bani have never been identified before, the forest here has been protected by villages due to a local folklore. As the stories go, villagers believe in the miracles of a Gudariya Baba, who lived in Mangar Bani several years ago and that cutting trees in the Bani would invoke the his wrath.
Experts said that preserving the Mangar forest area will help save wildlife and aid their movement in the Aravalli belt. Patches of the area is also connected to the Sariska Tiger Reserve, which is about 100 km to the south, and Asola Wildlife Sanctuary, across the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway.