Despite a 1996 Supreme Court judgment banning construction activity on the Aravalli hills without permission of the central government, forest and town planning officials in Haryana kept issuing no-objection certificates (NOCs) to developers for farmhouses, banquet halls, residential buildings and large educational institutions for more than a decade.
Conservator of forests (Gurgaon range) RP Balwan, member of the Supreme Court appointed Central Empowered Committee, said this smacked of a huge scandal. “How did Haryana government officials allow illegal construction in the Aravalli Hills for 12 years?” he asks.
“District forest officials had been unauthorisedly issuing NOCs to farmhouse owners on Aravalli land before 2004. After that not only did I revoke all the NOCs issued, I also stopped issuing further certificates. After 2004 no new structures have come up and those that did have faced demolition,” claims Balwan.
Despite the landmark Supreme Court judgment, more than 2,000 structures, including farmhouses, have been built in both districts since the mid-1980s when the Haryana government allowed some developers to develop farmlands on about 2,000 acres of land.
“Apart from an NOC from the town and country planning department, I also have regular water, sewerage, power and telephone connections. Why should my house face demolition?” asks Jaswinder Singh, a resident of Kant Enclave, Faridabad.
District town planner Madhusmita Moitra said NOCs issued before 2004 were not meant to allow concrete structures on farmland. “These were issued only to confirm whether the area fell under the ‘controlled’ category. Even one per cent construction is not allowed on farmhouses except for the tiny structures such as tubewells,” she said.
Forest officials say the developers lobby managed to postpone the re-notification of section 3 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act for 25 years. Section 3 prohibits change in the status of the land use on forest land without the state government’s permission.
Balram said earlier officials as well as the departments misled and overlooked SC judgements passed between 1996 and 2004. “After 2004 we roped in FSI, Dehradun and got hi-resolution satellite imageries from the Quick Bird company, USA. We submitted the finding to the Supreme Court,” he added.
NK Sehgal, the director (sanctions) of Ansal API that developed about 1500 acres on Aravalli Hills said the company had got the requisite permissions from the authorities. “We developed farmhouses... before the state declared the area as controlled in 1990. The then government had plans to develop a Disneyland here. The concrete construction on farmhouses is just one percent of the total area,” he said.