Green tribunal should step in to prevent the assault on Aravalis

With dwindling water resources, the Natural Conservation Zone concept is highly relevant today since concrete structures on wetlands, gullies, ravines, foothills and storm water drains disrupt the replenishment of ground water

editorials Updated: Jun 21, 2017 14:41 IST
Hindustan Times
Aravali Natural Conservation Zone,Aravali,Environment
File photo of the Aravali Biodiversity Park. A tussle is on between the Haryana government and environmentalists over the Aravali Natural Conservation Zone at the National Green Tribunal (Abhinav Saha/Hindustan Times)

Among all the phrases that are currently hot favourites among policy makers, ‘sustainable development’ tops the list. Every government document speaks about the need to ensure that economic development happens without depletion of natural resources. But on the ground, things are different. Take for example, the ongoing tussle between the Haryana government and environmentalists over the Aravali Natural Conservation Zone (ANCZ) at the National Green Tribunal (NGT). While the former wants to dilute the norms to free around 11,500 hectares, which are under the natural conservation zone (NCZ) ‘status to be decided’, for development of real estate, many citizens are dead against such a move for good reasons.

The Aravali Natural Conservation Zone is categorised under two heads — ‘confirmed’ NCZ and ‘yet to be decided’ NCZ. While the former has 51,000 hectares of forest land in its cover, the latter spreads across 11,500 hectares. On Tuesday, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) came to the rescue of the ANCZ. Hearing a petition filed by environmentalist SS Oberoi, the NGT issued notices to the Haryana government and forest department, seeking replies by July 3. With dwindling water resources, the NCZ concept is highly relevant today since concrete structures on wetlands, gullies, ravines, foothills and storm water drains disrupt the replenishment of ground water.

The assault on the India’s ecology has assumed gigantic proportions. According to a recent report by the WWF, three major natural World Heritage Sites — the Western Ghats, Sundarbans National Park and the Manas wildlife sanctuary — are facing threats from harmful industrial activities. Activities such as mining, illegal logging, oil and gas exploration threaten 114 out of 229 natural World Heritage sites, including the Sundarbans, known for the iconic Royal Bengal tiger, the Western Ghats and the Manas sanctuary in Assam, home to many endangered species including Indian rhinoceros, it said.

One of the main reasons why many don’t understand the long-term value of ecosystems is because nature’s economic worth is invisible. But today many economists are trying to point out that a nation’s progress should include its natural capital base, not just GDP. The United Nations Environment Programme’s Green Economy Initiative has demonstrated that the greening of economies is not a burden on growth but rather a new engine for growing wealth, increasing decent employment, and reducing persistent poverty. Unfortunately, most Indian policymakers don’t seem to comprehend such ideas thanks to their myopic attitudes and the pressure of five-year election cycles when development becomes a big vote-catcher.

First Published: Jun 21, 2017 14:41 IST