Entire Aravalli hills region is protected zone, says NCR Planning Board
In its reply to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on the status of a 52-acre plot in the Aravallis earmarked for a housing project, the NCR Planning Board, on Monday, said that since 2005, the entire Aravalli hills region has been a natural conservation zone (NCZ) with a construction cap of 0.5%.
This statement also brought some clarity on the status of several other areas of the state which are in the ‘yet to be decided’ category of the NCZ.
The NCRPB, in its reply, said, “The regional plan 2021, which was notified on September 17, 2005, has kept the entire Aravalli hills (region), including major natural features identified as environmentally sensitive areas, as natural conservation zones (NCZ)s.”
On August 1, the NGT asked the NCRPB to file a status report on the 52-acre plot at the Sarai Khwaja village in Faridabad district where a housing project had been proposed. The choice of the site raised eyebrows and had environment activists up in arms, as it was deemed to have fallen in the eco-fragile area of the Aravallis.
The tribunal sought the status report during the hearing on a petition filed by lt. Col. (retd) Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi, asking for the NGT’s intervention in ensuring that all construction projects be kept out of the Aravalli gair mumkin pahar area or forest land.
The petition was filed after more than 10,000 trees were chopped on the Sarai Khwaja plot.
The NCRPB stated, “...as far as Aravalli is concerned, ‘specified areas’ of Aravalli range that include land categories like gair mumkin pahar, gair mumkin rada, gair mumkin behed or banjad beed or rundh as given in the MoEF notification issued by the Ministry of Environment & Forests in 1992 are to be included in the NCZ category. The govt. of Haryana is required to ascertain the status of the land in question (sic).”
As per the 1992 notification, no mining or developmental activity is allowed in the Aravali hills without prior permission from environment ministry. It is further explained in the notification that the portion of the Aravallis in the NCR is considered environmentally-sensitive and the lands therein are marked as NCZ in the Regional Plan 2021.
According to the records of the land revenue department, the 52-acre plot falls in the category of “gair mumkin pahar” of the Aravallis, which, in turn, is listed in the ‘yet to be decided’ category, the petition said. It further stated that the status quo should be maintained until the Supreme Court takes a call on the criteria for identifying forest land. The next hearing on the plea is scheduled on Wednesday.
The plea said that the present status of the land marks “...complete violation of the directions of the Supreme Court which had categorically stated that forest has to be understood according to its dictionary meaning and therefore had directed the states to identify the areas which can be classified as forests.”
However, the state government had allegedly denied forest status to the land.
Speaking to Hindustan Times earlier this month, SK Gulati, former additional chief secretary (ACS), forest and wildlife, said, “The 52-acre land is marked as ‘gair mumkin’, which is not forest land. We have sub-categories for Aravalli forest as ‘gair mumkin jungle’. This particular land is not termed as ‘jungle’.”