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Centre asked to submit report on Aravalli status

The report stated that the land in question should be considered a deemed forest. In September 2017, the NGT directed the state government to file its response to the MOEF report by September 30, but the government is yet to comply.

gurgaon Updated: Nov 29, 2018 14:56 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Gurugram
haryana,MOEF,Aravali Land
State forest officials refused to comment on the matter on Wednesday.(Manoj Kumar/ HT Photo)

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), on Tuesday, directed the Ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) to submit a final report within three weeks on whether the 52 acres of land in Faridabad’s Sarai Khwaja village falls under the protected zone or not.

In June last year, Lt Col (retd) Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi had filed a petition in the NGT stating that the state government had granted permission to two companies for felling trees without obtaining forest clearance under the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980. More than 10,000 trees were felled in June to clear land for construction. The petitioner demanded that construction of realty projects be banned in ‘gair mumkin pahar’ (non-cultivable) areas of the Aravalli, which is deemed forest land.

Back then, the tribunal had sought clarification from the MOEF on the protection status accorded to the land as no construction beyond 0.5% is allowed in areas under the Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ), a level of protection accorded to all of the Aravallis, as per the National Capital Region (NCR) Planning Board’s Regional Plan for 2021.

The pending NCZ status in this case leaves room for the land use to be changed and open it up for construction.

Last year, acting on NGT’S order, the MOEF had submitted an inquiry report to the Haryana government and the NGT in August 2017. The report stated that the land in question should be considered a deemed forest. In September 2017, the NGT directed the state government to file its response to the MOEF report by September 30, but the government is yet to comply. Since no response has been filed till date, the tribunal has now directed the ministry to submit a final report on its own.

In its Tuesday order, the NGT said that if the final report on the protection status is not submitted in the next three weeks, “the inspector general, forest conservation, will (be required to) remain present in person before this tribunal on the next date”.

The date of next hearing has not been decided.

Currently, the 52 acres in question are under the ‘Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ) status yet to be decided’. This status was decided in the last meeting held on this matter on September 21 between officials from the forest, revenue and disaster management and the town and country planning departments. The meeting was held to decide delineation of the NCZ status. Since nothing concrete came from the meeting, forest officials had requested that the land be categorized as ‘NCZ status yet to be decided’.

State forest officials refused to comment on the matter on Wednesday.

“The NGT has finally set a deadline or else the authorities would have sat on the report. The MOEF has the authority to direct the state government to act, but the ministry hasn’t done it so far,” city-based environmentalist Vaishali Chandra Rana said.

According to environmentalists, the decision on the 52 acres will have consequences for around 50,000 acres of Aravalli land, which is yet to be accorded forest status (‘status yet to be decided’) by state government.

Forest analyst Chetan Agarwal said, “The Aravallis are the ecological lifeline of Delhi, Gurugram and Faridabad. Confirmation of being granted the forest status and the NCZ status, so that real estate activity is not allowed, will go a long way in conserving the same.”

First Published: Nov 29, 2018 14:56 IST