Haryana yet to submit plan to conserve Najafgarh Jheel, matter with state technical committee
The Haryana government, even two months after the deadline, is yet to submit an environment management plan to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for the protection of Najafgarh Jheel, as sought by the green court last September.
However, officials from the state environment department said that technical committees have been formed to look into the matter and study the reports concerned.
On September 17, 2020, the NGT, hearing a petition filed by the Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage (INTACH) for protection of the water body, had said, “In view of the fact that there is a large transboundary water body which partly falls in Delhi and partly in Haryana, it will be appropriate that an environment management plan is prepared jointly by the State of Haryana and NCT of Delhi. The MoEF&CC may steer the proceedings for preparation of environment management plan with the assistance of the Central Pollution Control Board. Central Pollution Control Board may coordinate as a nodal agency. Such plan may be prepared within three months.”
The petitioners in the case are of the view that protection of the water body is important to maintain groundwater level in Gurugram district.
Akash Vashishtha, the advocate for the petitioner, said, “It is well known that the water situation in Gurugram is grave with heavy reliance on a water table which is almost exhausted. The petitioners, INTACH, has estimated that if the water body is protected, then a regular and sustainable groundwater withdrawal is possible to support a population of half a million, based on rainwater harvesting as well as recycled water. The Delhi government has already submitted an environment management plan to the union ministry, but the Haryana government is delaying.”
Vashishtha further said that the Haryana government, in February 2017, had submitted to the NGT acknowledging the presence of a Jheel (lake) and that the government would notify and protect it.
Manu Bhatnagar, principal director of Natural Heritage Division of INTACH, said, “Apart from being an ecologically sensitive site for birds, Najafgarh Jheel is crucial for (solving) water woes of Gurugram region if it is protected properly. This waterbody is equivalent to 5,000 ponds area wise, which can act as a huge aquifer to recharge groundwater. Along with this, the lake being situated on seismic zone IV and highest zone of soil liquefaction, it is a hazard zone if buildings are constructed there. Destroying the Jheel will greatly worsen the flooding of Gurugram.”
Meanwhile, the member secretary of the State Wetland Authority of Haryana on January 22 wrote a letter to the additional advocate general of Haryana regarding the matter, a copy of which was accessed by HT. The petitioners confirmed that this letter was submitted by the state government to NGT in the last hearing on January 27.
The letter mentions that the divisional commissioner of Gurugram submitted a report to the State Wetland Authority considering issues related to the Najafgarh water body, which was placed before the authority on October 19, 2020, at its second meeting held under the chairmanship of the chief minister.
The State Wetland Authority has decided that, “The revenue department shall examine temporary discontinuation of registry of sale deed of land falling below contour level 211 and only agricultural and allied activities be permitted in the said contour level till the final notification of the Wetland or till further orders. Change of land use shall not be further permitted in the area by the Town & Country Planning Department till further orders.”
The letter further mentioned that based on the decisions taken in the second meeting of the State Wetland Authority, “reminders were issued to the quarters concerned on January 6, 2021, for taking action on the relevant points, but till date, no action take reports from any quarter concerned has been received in this office.”
RK Chauhan, the joint director of state environment, said, “Before forming the environment management plan, we have to first identify or designate the area which falls under the ambit of the lake. The state government has formed technical committees for studying this matter. The State Wetland Authority is also regularly monitoring this issue, with two meetings already conducted. At present, we are following all rules of the union environment ministry and will soon be able to submit the environment management plan to NGT.”
Yash Garg, who recently took charge as the deputy commissioner of Gurugram, said, “A committee under the previous divisional commissioner was formed earlier and it had sent its recommendations to the state government. The environment department of the government is assessing the report and will submit a plan accordingly.”
According to an RTI reply given by the irrigation and water resources department of Haryana, the Najafgarh Jheel, located near Kherki Majra village, is spread across 120.80 hectares. Depending on the mean sea level, the size of the water body differs; with 120 hectares at 209 metres, 300 hectares at 210 metres and 450 hectares at 211 metres.