AIIMS Rewari denied green nod on forest land
As per the minutes of meeting accessed by HT, the FAC decided that “Haryana has less forest area and existing forest areas should not be proposed for diversion” and that the “proposal is not site specific, hence may be taken up in some non-forest area.”Updated: Jun 19, 2019 23:49 IST
The ministry of environment, forests and climate change’s (MoEFCC) forest advisory committee has denied environmental clearance (FAC) to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences’ (AIIMS) upcoming campus in Rewari’s Manethi village, on grounds that the project site falls on protected Aravalli plantation land, according it protection under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
Multiple forest department officials, including Rewari’s district forest officer, Sundar Lal, and additional principal chief conservator of forests, Vinit Garag, declined to comment on the matter, saying they have not yet received any physical intimation from the MoEFCC.
As per the minutes of meeting accessed by HT, the FAC decided that “Haryana has less forest area and existing forest areas should not be proposed for diversion” and that the “proposal is not site specific, hence may be taken up in some non-forest area.”
A senior official in the forest department’s south Haryana division, said, “The FAC’s decision was taken at a meeting to discuss the AIIMS project on May 22. The FAC said that the land in question cannot be used for non-forestry activities. The committee has recommended looking for alternative sites for the project, and questioned why no alternative site was proposed to begin with.”
The official also said that the district administration had proposed to provide 200 acres in Masani barrage area for afforestation, to offset the environmental damage that the campus would cause. “However, the FAC was of the opinion that instead of planting an alternate forest, the campus should be built at an alternate site,” the official said.
Rao Inderjit Singh, Gurgaon MP and union minister of state for planning, who is a Rewari native, said, “This matter is under the consideration of union government and the issues related to land acquisition would be resolved soon.”
Environmentalist and birder, Rakesh Ahlawat, of Dighal village, who frequently visits the area on birding excursions, said, “The project will directly threaten around 200 acres of valuable forest, which is home to a variety of snakes, birds and mammals. No permission for any non-forestry activity should be granted here, as the land is protected under Aravalli law and is also a deemed forest.”
Unhappy with the MoEFCC’s decision, locals in Manethi have organised themselves into the Manethi-AIIMS Sangharsh Samiti, headed by village sarpanch Shyotaj Singh, and called a panchayat on June 23 to protest against the FAC’s denial of clearance.
Congress leader Capt (retd) Ajay Singh Yadav lashed out at Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Rao Inderjit Singh. “We were already aware of this matter. Even the BJP’s top leadership is aware that AIIMS can’t be built at the proposed site, which is why they have not laid a foundation stone yet. The approval of the project ahead of the Lok Sabha polls was simply a way to garner votes,” said Yadav in a press release on Thursday.
Jawahar Yadav, BJP spokesperson, said, “We will obey the ministry’s mandate, but will also try and fulfil the demands of the people in Manethi who support the project. We will find a solution within the law. The BJP has plans of establishing at least five new medical colleges across the state in the near future, in Gurugram, Narnaul, Manethi and other places, which is more than the Congress ever planned. We have already laid foundation stones for most of them. Congress should not question our intent.”
(with inputs from Abhishek Behl)
First Published: Jun 19, 2019 23:49 IST