Haryana could lose 70% forest cover: Activists
Haryana has the second lowest forest cover in the country after Punjab. According to the Forest Report 2015 issued by the Forest Survey of India, Haryana has a forest cover is 3.58% of which 90% forest falls in south Haryana.gurgaon Updated: Mar 25, 2017 22:08 IST
Green activists have raised their voice against the Haryana government after it recently submitted an affidavit in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) claiming that the Aravalli plantation areas are “not forest”, implying that the state could lose 70% of its forest cover if the affidavit stands validated.
Of late, large-scale indiscriminate tree felling has been reported from forested areas. The move will also hasten the depletion of green cover in the state, activists said.
Haryana has the second lowest forest cover in the country after Punjab. According to the Forest Report 2015 issued by the Forest Survey of India, Haryana’s cover is 3.58%, of which 90% forest falls in south
Around 50,000 hectares that fall under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900, and Aravalli plantation could be at stake because of the faulty policies of the state government, activists said.
The state had formed committees headed by Gurgaon divisional commissioner D Suresh to reopen and review the forest status of PLPA areas on January 6.
AROUND 1,00,000 hectares fall under the Aravallis in south Haryana. More than 25,000 hectares are identified as forest under sections 4 and 5 of PLPA. Around 62,000 hectares have been identified as natural conservation zone (NCZ) and another 12,800 hectares have been put under the ‘yet to be decided’ category.
“A misleading affidavit has been filed by the government of Haryana with respect to the Aravalli plantation areas which are largely recorded as gair mumkin pahar (non-cultivated land) and considered as ‘deemed forest’. The affidavit dated January 6, 2017, filed by D Hembram, special secretary, forest, Haryana, stating that clearance under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, is not applicable to Aravalli plantation areas for non-forest activities and alluding that the Aravalli plantations have not been finally delineated by the forest department, are contrary to law and facts. This will provide a window where south Haryana might lose 90% forest cover,” Chetan Agarwal, an environment analyst, said.
Experts said the sole purpose of this affidavit is to mislead the tribunal and protect the illegal mining happening in the deemed forest areas of the Aravallis. “The stand of the state government, if admitted, will have large-scale implications for the protection and conservation of the entire eco-fragile area of the Aravallis, and will undermine the directions, orders, and judgments passed by the Supreme Court earlier to protect the Aravallis,” Col SS Oberoi, an environmentalist, said.
The Supreme Court in MC Mehta vs Union of India in 2004 had ordered that no mining activity can be carried out in areas where plantation has been undertaken under the Aravalli project by utilisation of foreign funds, and the Aravalli hill range has to be protected at any cost.
This was ordered after the apex court observed that large-scale plantations were carried out under the Aravalli project since 1992. The document claims an increase in the forest cover in Haryana as a result of plantation under the Aravalli project. It mentions that forest cover increase in Gurgaon and Faridabad is mainly due to plantation under the Aravalli project started in the early 1990s. In these matters, neither the state nor the leaseholders can be permitted to turn around and take a stand that the areas covered under the Aravalli project are not forests.
Divisional commissioner D Suresh said, “We are reviewing the PLPA land areas to get a clear picture of the scenario and we cannot say anything on the affidavit of Aravalli plantation areas as it is in court.”