The Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) has for the first time, since the Supreme Court-appointed Centrally Empowered Committee (CEC) recommended demolition of farmhouses on Aravali Hills, prosecuted owners of 159 such houses in Faridabad’s Special Environment Court.
They have been charged with violating the Aravali notification, 1992, issued under the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
Earlier, only the forest department had taken up the issue with the apex court through the CEC. They had, with the help of FSI, Dehradun, obtained satellite images of the unauthorised farmhouses.
More owners also are likely to be prosecuted, as the HSPCB has issued notices to around 750 more farmhouses owners at Golden Heights, Aravali Retreat and Gawlpahari in Gurgaon. The owners being prosecuted include former and sitting ministers, bureaucrats, businessmen, celebrities, socialists and other prominent figures. But the HSPCB has refused to divulge the names for now.
Chand Saini, HSPCB regional officer at Gurgaon, confirmed that 159 owners were prosecuted in the first week of February on the charges of degradation of greenery on Aravali Hills and notices were sent to hundreds of more owners in the region under Section 15 of the environment act.
The Haryana government had issued a gazette notification on May 7, 1992 under the act, banning construction in the Aravali Hills.
HSPCB officials said the owners who had built palatial houses and had been served notices, with due time being given for filing replies, were prosecuted. But those who owned farmhouse land but had not built anything were spared.
The officials said that the owners who were issued notices have been given 15 days’ to reply. Based on their replies, they would be prosecuted or spared.
Forest officials said that violations over 300 sq km of Aravali Hills existed in Gurgaon alone , while the entire hills area spanned about 1.25 lakh sq km over entire Haryana.