Illegal constructions come up in Aravalli, environmentalists seek task force, checkpoints - Hindustan Times
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Illegal constructions come up in Aravalli, environmentalists seek task force, checkpoints

By, Gurugram
May 05, 2023 11:39 PM IST

Environmentalists in Gurugram demand an Aravalli task force and the re-establishing of checkpoints to crack down on encroachers and the mining mafia, as illegal constructions have cropped up in the Aravallis. Despite an order from the National Green Tribunal to halt all illegal activities in the area, boundary walls are being erected, trees are being felled, terrain is being flattened and stone quarried from the hillocks of Aravallis. The vulnerability of the eco-sensitive region is underlined by the fact that none of the 51 forest check posts set up in the Aravallis zone of Gurugram and Sohna in 2016 exist as of date.

Once again, illegal constructions have cropped up in Aravallis, prompting environmentalists in Gurugram to write to the district administration on Thursday, demanding an Aravalli task force and the re-establishing of checkpoints to crack down on encroachers and the mining mafia.

Illegal constructions come up in Aravalli, environmentalists seek task force, checkpoints
Illegal constructions come up in Aravalli, environmentalists seek task force, checkpoints

Their demand assumes significance as none of the 51 forest check posts that were set up in the Aravallis zone of Gurugram and Sohna in 2016 exist as of date, an HT investigation had found, underlining the vulnerability of the eco-sensitive region which has suffered irreversible damage over the years due to the plunder by the mining mafia.

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Raising concerns about these illegal encroachments, constructions and mining activities in the protected Aravallis, environmentalists claimed that these activities are going on despite the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordering the demolition of all illegal structures on December 9, last year.

They said boundary walls are being erected, trees are being felled, terrain is being flattened and stone are being quarried from the hillocks of Aravallis and demanded Aravallis task force and checkpoints to curb the illegal activities.

Raising these issues, at least five environmentalists wrote to Gurugram deputy commissioner Nishant Kumar Yadav and forest department on Thursday.

In January 2018, the government promised to set up a task force and 51 check posts to prevent exploitation of the hills by the end of the year. In December 2018, Gurugram-based environmentalist Vaishali Rana filed a right to information application, seeking information about these check posts, and the status of the Aravallis task force.

In reply, she was informed by the forest department that there were no check-posts in the Aravallis and that a task force will be “constituted soon”.

Rana alleged that the local administration has failed to comply with the NGT order, which decreed that illegal activities in Aravallis must be stopped. “These blatant encroachments and constructions, highlight the fact that an Aravalli task force must be constituted, which should also comprise active citizens/activists/locals, and all 51 check posts must be re-established and made functional again,” she said.

Rana claimed that the committee which was constituted to oversee the protection of the Aravallis is currently non-existent.

She also said there has been mindless pillaging of the Aravallis in Sohna’s Raisina. “This clearly shows that the committee, constituted to monitor the encroachments and carry out demolition under the supervision of the conservator of forests, is not doing its job and is whiling away time, allowing the deliberate destruction of Aravallis,” said Rana.

Roma J Vinayak, a city based environmentalist, said Gurugram has a total area of 73,880 hectares and 8,650.67 hectares is recorded as forest area. Of the total forest area, 214.89 hectares is reserved forest.

“An area of 188.14 hectares is protected forest, The area where these encroachments , felling of trees, construction of swimming pools and farmhouses are happening are in Gairatpur Bas in Sohna, which has 22.60 hectares of protected forests. Farmhouses have come up as part of the Aravalli Retreat, a gated community in Raisina, Sohna , and they have been built on land protected under the Punjab Land Preservation Act Section 4 and 5 as gair mumkin pahar (uncultivable land), which are protected by the SC 1992 notification. The protected forest area is under the protection of Forest Conversation Act, 1980, but authorities are not doing anything,” she said.

DC Yadav said he will form a team to visit the spots and submit a report. “Our teams are already checking the violations and action has been taken in the past,” he said.

Jawahar Yadav, officer on special duty (OSD) to Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, said they will hold meetings with forest officials and ensure that check posts are set up again to curb illegal activities. “We will form an Aravalli task force within two months and regular patrolling will be done by the teams to curb illegal activities,” he said.

Nuh-Gurugram mining officer Anil Kumar on Wednesday said they have penalised suspects involved in illegal mining and their teams have visited six spots this week after they received complaints on the helpline number.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Leena Dhankhar has worked with Hindustan Times for five years. She has covered crime, traffic and excise. She now reports on civic issues and grievances of residents.

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