State human rights commission seeks report on Najafgarh jheel dispute
The Haryana Human Rights Commission has requested a report in the Najafgarh Jheel dispute from the deputy commissioner, Gurugram, within six weeks, after taking cognisance of a complaint filed by a resident and a local politician from Daulatabad village. The Commission will hear the matter on November 22 at the new public works department (PWD) rest house in Civil Lines. The Commission was responding to a July 12 letter written by Rakesh Jhangu of Daulatabad, who runs a non-governmental organisation(NGO) called Parivartan Sangh and is also a political aspirant. Earlier, in April this year, around 2,200 farmers and landowners in the villages surrounding the 41km-long Najafgarh drain submitted a letter to the state human rights commission, asking to be compensated for the losses suffered because of the frequent flooding and submerging of their lands due to the overflow of the drain.
According to farmers and landowners, around 5,600 acres of their land in eight villages, namely Dharampur, Mohammad Heri, Daulatabad, Kherki Majra, Dhankot, Chandu, Budhera and Makdola, remain submerged almost throughout the year, as a result of which they are unable to cultivate. In its order on July 26, the Commission noted that the complainant, Jhangu, had requested on behalf of aggrieved farmers that a 72-acre bundh be built across the drain in order to reclaim their fields. “The complainant has alleged in his complaint that from the last 15 years, the sewage water as well as water from industrial units are being put in the Najafgarh drain. Complainant has further alleged that due to the water the 5600 acres agricultural land has submerged under the water. Request has been made that necessary directions be issued to the concerned authorities to build a dam on 72 acres of land, like a dam in the area of Delhi. In the view of allegations levelled, report be requisitioned from the deputy commissioner, Gurugram within six weeks,” states the Commission’s letter.
In 2016, the Haryana government had submitted a proposal to the ministry of environment, forests and climate change to notify about 300 acres of land near Dhankot village as a wetland, given the fact that the land remains submerged throughout the year and attracts a large population of migrant birds. However, in December last year, the government proposed to build a bundh along the drain in order to reclaim the submerged farmlands. Speaking to Hindustan Times on Sunday, Jhangu said, “The common narrative seems to be that we are against the notification of a wetland. We are not. We are happy that the body has agreed to a proper hearing for our complaint. We want both a bundh to be built for the sake of the farmers and a wetland declared for sake of the environment. Pollution from the drain is creating a health and environment crisis for the last 20 years.” Environmentalists, on the other hand, have blamed the state for backtracking on its commitment to ensuring that the Jheel is protected. “Planning a bundh on the drain is certainly going back on their word, which was committed in a court of law. The area is an important groundwater recharge zone and building a bundh will have a major impact on the water table as well. Also, the wetland has been around for several years now. Flooding of agricultural fields is not a new phenomenon, and there may be real estate interests at play here. Trying to reclaim the land by building a damn goes against the intent of the Jal Shakti Abhiyan, which states that we should conserve groundwater,” said Pankaj Gupta of the Delhi Bird Foundation. The Najafgarh drain has its source in the Sahibi river, which is a tributary of Yamuna. The Sahibi river is now colloquially called Najafgarh drain because of the untreated sewage that is dumped into its waters. The drain carries water to the 7km-long Najafgarh lake on the Delhi-Haryana border.