To save Aravalli Biodiversity Park, NHAI now looks for alternative route
The Aravalli Biodiversity Park, one of the few breeding grounds of the majestic Indian Eagle Owl and the elusive Savanna Nightjar in the National Capital Region (NCR), may yet be saved from a road project.
Following massive public outcry against National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) two proposed link road projects, which involved the building of a road through the park, political leaders in Haryana and the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) have written to NHAI asking for the rationale behind the roads.
The outcry and the letters seem to have worked. NHAI is examining alternatives, an official at the highways authority said on condition of anonymity.
NHAI’S plan was to build two link roads — one from Ambience Mall to Aya Nagar on the Mehrauli-gurgaon (MG) Road (NH 236) and another from Vasant Kunj to Aya Nagar on the MCG Road—according to details on its website. Both the roads are part of a plan to decongest Delhi .
Rao Narbir Singh, Haryana’s PWD minister recently wrote to NHAI urging it to reconsider the road project because it would destroy the Aravalli Biodiversity Park. He has also put up posters in different parts of Gurugram pushing NHAI to reconsider its project. Narbir Singh’s office confirmed that the letter also demanded a rationale for a road cutting across the park and requested NHAI to review the alignment of the planned roads.
The commissioner, MCG, also wrote to the Gurgaon Metropolitan Development Authority (GMDA( and NHAI on November 19, saying that the MCG was not informed about the project.
“The MCG is the owner of the land and prime mover for development of this biodiversity park with the help of Iamgurgaon and private corporators through CSR funds,” it said in the letter. The MCG added that a new alignment of the road (which cuts across the park) is not as per the approved Gurugram -Manesar Master Plan 2031. “The reason for the new alignment as mentioned by the consultant AECOM in its report is to avoid acquisition of private land which doesn’t seem justifiable,” the letter said.
The MCG further argued in the letter that the road passing through the park would be an access road which would not serve the local area but connect NH 48 and MG Road. But these roads have already been connected by the Golf Course Road. The MCG has also suggested that an environment impact assessment of the project be carried out before the acquisition process starts. “Detailed traffic survey and requirement of this road may be assessed and shared with the MCG before going ahead.”
The Aravalli Biodiversity Park stretches over 380 acres and is a deemed forest. It was a stone quarrying zone before the park came up. It has not yet been recognised as a forest by the Haryana government but meets the criteria of a forest as ordered by the Supreme Court in the TN Godavarman case of 1996.
The TN Godavarman case judgement said the term “forest” is to be understood in the dictionary sense and added that any area regarded as a forest in government records, irrespective of ownership, would be considered a forest.
The park is a haunt for birders and nature lovers. “the park has evolved as a city forest and has become an important bird habitat. Given its high level of biodiversity, the proposed road by NHAI will be disastrous for the wildlife as it will create 24 hour noise and light pollution throughout the year and drive out the birds and wildlife,” said Vijay Dhasmana, a naturalist who helped design the park. “The park has in recent past has become a breeding ground of the Indian Eagle Owl and the Savanna Nightjar. Many rare migrant species were also reported in last two years, such as Rufous-tailed scrub robin. It has also become a biodiversity hotspot with rare Aravali plant species that Haryana has lost or is in the verge of losing, such as Indian frankincense tree, ghost tree, Bhormal, gurjan,” he added.
“The NHAI’S proposed road from NH8 to MG Road cuts through the Aravalli Biodiversity Park. The other proposed road from Vasant Kunj to MG road also cuts through the Aravali corridor. These roads will fragment and destroy the ecological forest corridor from Vasant Kunj to Gurgaon and especially the park, impairing bird and animal habitat, and reducing ground water recharge,” said Chetan Agarwal, environmental and forest analyst.