Soon, safeguarding the city’s depleting green cover against rampant violations and encroachment would only be a click away.
After the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) directed all states to prepare a database of forest areas based on satellite images, the Haryana forest department is likely to implement the order by October this year, using the e-Green Watch software.
“All forest officers and their computer technicians underwent a two-week training to learn how the new software functions. Another information session will be scheduled soon. The software will be up and running by October this year,” said Pankaj Goel, conservator of forests, Gurgaon.
According to officials, the e-Green Watch system will facilitate transparency, reliability and accountability of the department’s functioning. “Information regarding notified areas in every district will be uploaded, making it accessible to all online,” Goel added.
The Haryana forest department has been assembling graphic and pictorial data of all areas notified under Section 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act 1900 (PLPA). The software will provide access to the forest department’s activities in such areas through satellite imagery, apart from giving a clear picture of the existing green space.
In addition, applicants will be able to track files as they move from one official to the other for permissions. “The software will help reduce problems faced by citizens who have to visit forest officials regularly to keep track of their files. It is going to be a customer-friendly programme to ensure convenience,” said Goel. For this, all forest areas in Haryana have to be geo-mapped. It will expose any violations and non-forestry activities in notified areas.
In April this year, the Gurgaon forest department completed a 19-month-long exercise to geo-reference the ecologically fragile Aravali belt, mapping five districts in southern Haryana. The task was undertaken to check encroachments and illegal constructions in notified areas.
Geo-referencing begins with scanning of all villages and digitising of the scanned images. On the basis of these images, co-ordinates of each village are recognised along with notified areas under the PLPA 1900. The notified areas are later marked precisely with temporary boundaries - wooden pegs - and later cement pillars are constructed.
According to the Forest Survey of India (FSI), only 8.35% of the total geographical area of Gurgaon comes under forests at present. In Haryana, it is 3.64%.