No mandatory conservation of green cover, says draft NCR plan

Aravallis are not designated as forests under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, but are afforded protection as Natural Conservation Zones, after being categorised as such by the NCR Planning Board in 2018
The NCR draft plan 2041 has also removed the clause of forest cover target of 10%, even as forest cover is currently at 4%. Aravalli forests may see construction as well, as per the proposal. (HT Archive)
The NCR draft plan 2041 has also removed the clause of forest cover target of 10%, even as forest cover is currently at 4%. Aravalli forests may see construction as well, as per the proposal. (HT Archive)
Updated on Aug 31, 2021 06:30 AM IST
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BySuparna Roy

The draft Regional Plan 2041 for the National Capital Region states that conservation of areas designated as “green cover” will not be mandatory, which poses a threat to the Aravallis in the region as they are not designated as forests and therefore, are not protected by the forest laws.

The draft plan, prepared by the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB), which was accessed by HT, states, “The eco-sensitive areas in each subregion of the four participating states shall be identified and notified by the respective state governments. The components under Natural Conservation Zones (NCZ) as in Regional Plan 2021 shall remain and be continued to be conserved. However a distinction shall be made between ’forests’ and ’green cover’, wherein areas now categorized as ‘forests’ shall continue to be conserved, while conservation of the areas now designated as ’green cover’ areas shall not be mandatory.”

This move could impact the conservation of Aravallis as they are not designated as forests under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, but are afforded protection as NCZs, after being categorised as such by the NCRPB in 2018.

The draft plan, which will be discussed in a meeting by the National Capital Regional Planning Board on Tuesday, states, “The 0.5% of total area under Natural Conservation Zone is allowed for related compatible development which could be either at one place or at multiple locations, subject to other approvals, acts of different states and related sectors and land use compatible with the area.”

Experts said that earlier, the 0.5% construction clause applied to each plot separately, but now this can be applied to the whole area of an NCZ. Earlier, construction could only be carried out on 0.5 acres of each 100-acre plot, but now, if the draft regional plan is approved, construction activities may be allowed on a larger scale as it does not elaborate on what constitutes “related compatible development”.

When a similar clause was proposed earlier in the draft Regional Plan 2021, the ministry of environment forest and climate change had objected to it. In a letter to the NCRPB in 2014, the ministry said, “Though the Mega Tourism Policy of Haryana allows construction of residential and commercial real estate up to 20% and 10% respectively, in a minimum area of 300 acres, it is reiterated that in the remaining part of NCZ (excluding forests and protected areas), construction activities, even those related to regional recreational activities, shall not exceed 0.5% of the area.”

The draft plan 2041 has also removed the clause of forest cover target of 10% for the National Capital Region.

Reacting to the distinction, experts said that this will adversely impact the Aravalli forests in this region.

“The forest cover of the NCR is just about 4% and it is a shame that the NCRPB has succumbed to the real estate lobby and removed the limit on construction in the NCZ and so called ‘green’ areas. The draft has further removed the target forest cover of 10%, which was there in the regional plan 2021,” said Chetan Agarwal, an independent forest analyst.

SS Oberoi, a city-based environmental and legal expert, said, “With climate change picking up steam, groundwater going down, forest cover continuously reducing and the population of Gurugram and Faridabad increasing every year, more area should be conserved instead of a reduction.”

Meanwhile, Jagdish Parwani, the director of administration and finance, NCRPB, said, “The draft plan will be discussed in a meeting on Tuesday, after which only we will be able to share more details in the public domain.”

When asked, Parwani said all aspects of the plan will be discussed at the meeting and it is not necessary that all facets of the plan will be passed.

The NCRPB has also sought suggestions at feedback.ncrpb@nic.in concerning the draft Regional Plan 2041.

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Monday, December 06, 2021