Two days after HT reported rampant clearing of ‘protected’ forest areas in Raisina village of Gurgaon, authorities woke up to the menace.
A joint team from the state pollution control board, forest, mining and town and country planning swung into action on Thursday, pulling down boundary walls and gates of nearly 20 plots in the village.
About seven illegal borewell connections were also sealed by the team. According to officials, the plots were drawn from six to eight large farmhouse sites on the Aravalli hills.
“We were informed by the deputy commissioner that unauthorised construction on Aravali hills was taking place behind the Ansal Aravali Retreat Area. The unauthorised construction in six to eight farm houses sites were demolished,” said district town planner (enforcement), Narendra Solanki.
The team found that trees had been cut and walls were erected to divide the area into smaller plots.
Some trees indigenous to the Aravallis had been replaced by ornamental plants in some plots.
Officials also said that the offenders were trying to level the plots in the area by filling it with soil brought from outside the village.
The demolition drive lasted for seven hours in which around 50 police officials were also present. Two earthmovers were used by the team but one earthmover broke down, delaying the demolition that ended around 5pm.
The team’s next move is to find the owners of the plots and bring them to book.
“We are working on getting the ownership details so that notices can be sent and compensation can be collected,” said TL Satyaprakash, deputy commissioner of Gurgaon.
However, one major problem staring at the face of the administration is the ownership of land: most of the area has collective land holding.
The officials are now going through revenue records and electricity consumer numbers. Registration numbers on meter boxes have also been taken down.
Officials said that much of the illegal development in such remote areas could be avoided if electricity was not supplied here. The Deputy Commissioner agreed that talking to the electricity department about the problem may result in some solutions.
“We are going to find out who owns these plots, which is a difficult task. We are trying to get in touch with the Patwari for older revenue records and also trying to get details of power connections provided here,” said Navin Gulia, regional officer (south), Haryana State Pollution Control Board.
Administrative officials’ regular visit to the forest area of Raisina village in the past week has not deterred violators. Nearly 100 trees have been cut on a two-acre plot in the village in the past three days.
An HT team visiting the village three days ago did not find many trees cut in this area. However, on Thursday, nearly 100 trees had been cut at a corner plot where three roads leading into the Aravallis meet.
The HT team, posing as buyers, spoke to a local contractor from the village, who said that the land was being cleared to be sold. He also said that the owners are looking for a buyer and that he could arrange for contact details.
Officials from the mining, forest, town and country planning as well as pollution control board have been frequenting the area this week to collect information about fresh clearing of trees and illegal construction.
When informed, the forest officials reached the spot and questioned local workers. Sources said that the cutting had been seen earlier, but the local SHO refused to file an FIR when the case was reported. The forest department also mentioned enforcement problems as a roadblock in booking violators. “We are trying to get ownership details for filing a damage report. However, it is difficult to obtain it as the current ownership details may not be available in the revenue records,” said Naresh Kataria, forest range officer, Sohna.
“The administration is trying to start a GIS system so that monthly reports can be prepared. It is difficult to physically monitor such remote areas,” said TL Satyaprakash, Gurgaon DC.