Realty developers have so far evinced a lot of interest in the land parcels in the Aravallis that are recorded in the revenue records as gair mumkin pahar or non-cultivable land and not forests. The hopes they had harboured of urbanisation in the area are now dashed with Haryana’s decision to protect the Mangar Bani area and demarcating a 500 metre buffer as No Construction Zone (NCZ) instead of the 60 metre envisaged earlier.
From a conservation perspective, too, says Anckur Srivasttava of GenReal Advisers, why does Mangar Bani need to be touched at all? Is there such a dearth of land in the Faridabad or Gurgaon Master Plan areas that more land in this zone is required? Why are people encroaching upon the limited amount of lung space that the NCR has?
These land banks are like penny stocks. Like investors, realtors pick up inexpensive land parcels and wait for a price run till the time the area gets included in the urban zone. Many of them have picked up land for `3 lakh per acre which is now valued at `15 lakh per acre depending on the location.Once it is open to urbanisation, the appreciation can be as high as `3 crore per acre, he adds.
500 metre buffer zone ‘not enough’
The environment ministry last year had issued a draft notification earmarking an area of 100 metres to 1.27 km around the Okhla Bird Sanctuary as an eco-sensitive zone, substantially reducing the 10 km area proposed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT). This week, the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) decided to protect the Mangar Bani area in Haryana and demarcate a 500 m buffer as a No Construction zone. The question, however, is: are these limits enough to save the environment – the flora and fauna in the respective areas from urbanisation?
According to Manoj Misra, head of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, a buffer around an ecological sensitive area is a function of its sensitivity and not any formula. Mangar Bani is an ecological jewel that must be protected zealously. But compared to the previously proposed 60 metre, 500 metres is certainly a welcome change.
The Uttar Pradesh government had proposed a buffer zone of 100 metre in case of the Okhla Bird sanctuary. Is the Haryana move something that the UP government should emulate?
Not really, as a buffer is a measure of the site’s sensitivity. Even in the case of the Okhla Bird Sanctuary it is unfortunate that UP is working on a mere 100 metres, which by no yardstick is the right buffer, Misra says.
Noted environment lawyer Rahul Choudhary is of the view that both the Mangar Bani issue in Haryana and the Okhla Bird sanctuary case in Noida need to be treated differently. “The Haryana government’s decision to set aside a 500 mtere buffer zone to protect the Mangar Bani is not enough,” he says.
The entire area from the Delhi border till Sariska should be declared as a reserved forest. This buffer serves no purpose, especially if the Haryana government is to meet its objective of creating a forest cover of 20% as stated in its forest policy.”
Okhla is a bird sanctuary and not a forest. “The Supreme Court in its 2006 order had categorically stated that the eco sensitive zone around national parks and sanctuaries should be of about 10 km and that the state government would have to propose how much land it sets aside for the purpose. And that till the time the state government does not come out with a notification, the 10 km limit will prevail,” says Choudhary.