As Haryana is preparing to celebrate the golden jubilee of the state, environmentalists are demanding more attention towards forest cover, which they feel has been neglected. They want the state to increase the area under forest cover.
Only 3.6% of land area in Haryana is classified as forest -- the second lowest in the country. The state government has planned to increase it to 10% in five years but no measures have been initiated in that direction so far.
Green activists said they will write to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar pointing out that as per the official figures, the city has already lost 8% of its total forest area because of several development projects and faulty policies since the 1980s when the Forest Conservation Act (FCA) came into effect. Also, some areas that have been diverted from the forest category are still recoded as forest. There is ambiguity over the actual forest cover, activists said.
They said reducing the forest cover at this rate is a recipe for an urban disaster. Activists said authorities need to work towards increasing forest cover, especially in view of the rising pollution in Delhi-NCR.
Chetan Agarwal, an environment analyst said, “By 2031, the population of the city is expected to double. The Aravalli hills and the groundwater recharge zones will have to be protected. There is a need to increase the area zoned as forest so that the per capita forest cover is maintained as the population of the city doubles.”
The city has a population of 15 lakh and total area of Gurgaon is 73,880 hectares of which the total forest cover is only 1,619 hectares. Officials records say that the total forest area diverted till now is close to 130 hectares.
“The state government has no plans to increase the forest cover in the region. Even the forest department continues to record diverted areas as forest, creating false records,” Vivek Kamboj, an environmentalist, said.
Colonel SS Oberoi, a legal activist, said, the Aravallis should be declared a sanctuary and no construction should be allowed there. “Wildlife corridors should be demarcated as well. This will help in recharging the groundwater of the region and it will help the city survive. The region is also identified as ‘over exploited’ zone by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) in 2015,” he said.
The forest department said the state is in the process of finalising the forest category. “We agree that whatever little is left should be protected. As of now, the actual forest area in Gurgaon would be about 0.5%. Recently the chief minister also showed interest in reviving the Aravallis,” MD Sinha, conservator of forest, Gurgaon, said.