Prakash Javadekar, the Union minister for environment, forest and climate change will conduct an aerial survey of the forest cover in Gurgaon and Mewat districts of Haryana on Monday. The move will help define forests in the state, which has been the bone of contention for the last two decades.
This visit may also put some light on the draft notification that had been prepared by the environment ministry to categorise forests in the state.
The minister will visit Firozepur Jhirka where he will meet the officials of the forest department to get an idea of the ground reality. The forest department also confirmed the news. “The Union minister will visit the area to understand the topography of the region,” said MD Sinha, conservator of forest, Gurgaon.
Speculations are high that if the proposal gets approval then a large area of scrub forests in the Aravallis hills will be exempted from the ‘forest category.’
As the Aravalli forest ranges do not have a dense forest cover and have also been recorded as ‘gair mumkin pahar’ and ‘bhood’ in the revenue record, if the proposal of raising the present 10% density of forest to 30% density for any area to be considered as forest in the state is considered then around 11,500 hectares of forests in Haryana’s NCR, much of it in the Aravallis, could fail to get protection if the draft is notified.
Environmentalists have termed the exercise as the last nail in the coffin if the government decides to dilute the forest cover in the state, which is the second lowest in the country.
As per the 2014 draft of the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the states that have a forest cover less than the national average, which is 33%, should declare areas in the region even with less than 1% crown density and scrub forests (0-10% forest cover). However, the current draft has no mention of scrub forests.
Experts are of the opinion that the extended meaning of forest as in the Samatha case judgment of the Supreme Court has also been ignored in the new draft and it does not consider plantations as forests.
“The new draft will affect the ongoing demarcation of the Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ), especially the areas that have been put under ‘yet to be decided NCZ’ category,” said Vivek Kamboj, an environmentalist.
Green activists fear that this visit might dilute the forest cover picture in the state. “With the increase in crown density criteria, the Aravallis will be excluded from being declared as ‘forest’ and it will help the real estate lobby to grab land in the region,” said Amit Chaudhery, a naturalist.