The Haryana government is mulling to change the status of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) area that falls in Gurgaon and Faridabad. In a meeting on Friday, the divisional commissioner of Gurgaon, D Suresh, asked divisional forest officers of the two districts to identify the total PLPA area and also the status of the ‘yet to be decided’ natural conservation zone (NCZ) category area.
The move has drawn criticism from environmentalists who say the plan is to remove a large chunk of land from the status of forest to benefit the builders’ lobby.
About 1,00,000 hectares of land fall under the Aravallis in southern 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 NCZ, while another 12,800 hectares have been put under the ‘yet to be decided’ category.
On Monday, a committee was formed under the chairmanship of the divisional commissioner to examine the status of land that falls under sections 4 and 5 of the PLPA. According to the letter, the forest department has been excluded from this exercise. The letter also states that the entire process will take two months and the report will be submitted to the government of Haryana.
Though the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) had asked Delhi-NCR to include more areas under the Aravalli Notification, 1992, and expand Aravalli hills to the whole of NCR, the state government is still planning to dilute the areas which are under PLPA, activists said.
“The plan goes against the direction of orders of the Supreme Court and the NGT, and the directions of the MoEFand the NCRPB, to identify forests as per the dictionary meaning,” Lt col (retired) Sarvadaman Oberoi, an environmentalist, said.
Activists said the exercise is aimed at diluting the PLPA area. They said the government has all data regarding PLPA as it is protected forest and there was no confusion over the area.
Chetan Agarwal, an environmental analyst, said, “Haryana’s forest cover is less than 4% and even the dense forest of Mangar bani sacred grove is still not identified by Haryana officially as a forest. If the state government policy is directed by public interest, then it should focus on completing the exercise of identifying forests as per the dictionary meaning, and increase the officially identified forests rather than trying to reduce the PLPA areas currently identified as forest.”
The green activists pointed out that Haryana has not taken any steps to identify forests as per the dictionary meaning.
“Only those Aravalli areas which were under PLPA notification, or Aravalli plantations areas, are treated as confirmed NCZ so far. Rest of the Aravalli areas are not treated as forest or as NCZ. Instead of identifying forests the Haryana government is trying to exclude PLPA areas, which are the main Aravalli areas positively identified as forest so far,” Agarwal said.