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Aravalis vulnerable to plunder?

realestate Updated: Mar 21, 2014 19:16 IST
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It’s a document that might as well ring the death knell for the ecologically sensitive Aravalis, opening up the mountain range to uncontrolled, unplanned development and destroying forest areas that are essentially the green lungs of the Capital. Approval of the revised regional plan 2021 by state government representatives of the national capital region will, in every sense of the word, ‘dilute’ the environmental safeguards put in place in 2005 in the regional plan 2021 to protect the Aravali belt.

At the time of going to press, the prime minister’s office had asked the union urban development ministry not to approve Haryana’s sub-regional plan that allows construction beyond 0.5% in conservation areas and tourism activities in these sensitive zones. Also, with the poll dates announced, the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) has postponed the meeting to approve the plan.

It will, therefore, not be wrong to say that the draft revised regional plan 2021 downplays the ecological importance of the region where forests and sacred groves such as Mangar Bani act as wildlife corridors between the Asola Bhatti Sanctuary and the Sariska National Park in Rajasthan and as the lungs of the NCR.

Environmentalists have alleged that the revision of the regional plan is being done to open up the protected areas to colonisation by private developers and regularise the violations as per the present plan. It might not be long before several private developers, some of whom have reportedly bought huge land parcels in the area, start construction of sprawling ‘villas facing golf courses’ as ‘tourism’ or ‘recreational’ activities,they warn.

For the uninitiated, a regional plan is meant to prevent any haphazard development in the NCR. Environment analysts say that the revisions suggested in the plan will use tourism as a pretext to allow rampant residential and commercial construction in the Aravalis.

Also, as population of NCR increases, the per capita forest cover needs to be maintained.The forest area needs to double simultaneously because of all the ecological benefits it offers. And that can happen only if the forest cover is reserved.

Initiatives taken by different states

Over the last 20 years, Delhi has taken significant steps to preserve the Aravali, Ridge area
Rajasthan has protected Sariska as a tiger reserve
In Haryana, the intervening Aravali area has no reserve forests, sanctuaries or even conservation reserves. The problem here has been that part of the area has been sold to private colonisers
In Noida, patches of vegetation on village common land should be identified, protected and expanded