Months after the NCR Planning Board asked Haryana to identify forest areas before finalising its sub-regional plan, officials are still debating over the definition of ‘forest’.
The confusion is mainly because Haryana’s definition of ‘forest’ is different from how the ministry of environment defines ‘forest’.
Also, the state seems reluctant in demarcating its forest areas, most of which have been sold to private developers.
In November, 2014, Faridabad deputy commissioner had written to town and country planning department asking for a clarification on the two definitions of forest.
While the Supreme Court orders defining forest under the ministry of environment guidelines, the DC’s letter defines forest cover as discussed in a meeting with the NCR planning board.
The minutes of the meeting states, “The forest land is a statutory area declared under the Forest Act while forest cover refers to the plantation even on private lands, and in case of forest cover is considered for NCZ then it may adversely impact the social forestry in the state.”
The state has not included private land under forest cover, 18 years after the Supreme Court order. Haryana has just 6% forest area — the second lowest in the country after Punjab.
“We have identified forests in Haryana and submitted an affidavit way back in 1997 to the Supreme Court. We are not conducting any more surveys now to identify forests,” said CR Jotriwal, principal chief conservator of forests, Haryana. He added that the forest department does not know of any directions from the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) regarding demarcating forest cover in the state.
Early in 2014, NCR planning board had ordered that the state can only finalise its sub-regional plan after the NCZs are clearly identified. Also, a Supreme Court order in 1996 mentioned what ‘forest cover’ is and had asked all states to mark the same.
Moreover, while demarcation of natural conservation zones (NCZ) and forest cover in the state has already been started by the revenue department under the DCs of the districts, the forest department seems to have no knowledge of the recent developments.