Haryana on Friday dropped an earlier resolution to derecognise large parts of the Aravalli Range as forest, a decision that had potentially opened up a massive green belt for commercial use, with the fate of the entire region now in limbo.
The state government said areas in southern Haryana not recorded as forest will be categorised as “status to be determined”, until the matter is decided by the Centre and Supreme Court (SC).
The forest department issued a letter, of which HT has a copy, announcing these changes that sources said were decided following media reports this week drawing attention to criticism from environmentalists who said the earlier decision was influenced by the real estate industry.
The areas affected by the decision include the Mangar Bani grove in Faridabad and over 80,000 hectares of the Aravallis in southern Haryana.
Sources said the resolution to not classify the Aravallis as forest was taken by the state’s senior bureaucrats while the environment minister and chief minister were in the dark.
“We are committed to protecting the forest areas under Aravalli, including Mangar Bani,” said Haryana environment minister Captain Abhimanyu.
“We have decided to wait for orders from the MoEF (Union ministry of environment and forests) and SC regarding forest area and will follow them completely,” he said.
The yardsticks for determining which area qualifies as a forest are expected to be decided by the apex court and the Centre in the next 10 days and are likely to be released on April 27, officials said.
These criteria will identify a forest as per the word’s dictionary meaning, in accordance with a 2005 judgment of the top court.
The state government’s previous decision had come in for criticism amid mounting concerns over toxic air in Delhi NCR as the Aravallis are a major buffer against pollution in the region.