NGT: Act against police for construction in Aravallis
The tribunal ruled that the police training and research centre of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) in Bhondsi has been built on forest land without obtaining clearances required under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980. The chief secretary has been asked to file an action taken report within two months.Updated: Sep 18, 2019 04:42 IST
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), on September 13, asked the state chief secretary to act against the state police department for unauthorised construction on Aravalli land in the district.
The tribunal ruled that the police training and research centre of the Indian Reserve Battalion (IRB) in Bhondsi has been built on forest land without obtaining clearances required under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980. The chief secretary has been asked to file an action taken report within two months.
Following an NGT order from last month, the forest department had inspected the site and submitted a factual report in the matter on September 11.
The report, a copy of which is with the HT, states, “Out of 23.327 hectares of land owned by the Police Lines in Manesar, 7.461 hectares is gair mumkin pahar and 15.866 hectare is Banjar Kadeem. About 7.329 hectares is Aravalli plantation that overlaps the Gair Mumkin Pahar. There is construction in 0.5834 hectares of Aravalli plantation, which violates the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.”
In view of this report, the NGT’s subsequent order, dated September 13, a copy of which is with the HT, states: “Let the Chief Secretary, Haryana, take appropriate action to enforce the law”.
The HT attempted to reach out to the Inspector General, IRB, Hanif Qureshi but did not receive a response from his office despite repeated attempts.
This latest development comes in response to a petition by the former sarpanch of Manesar panchayat Ram Avtar Yadav. The petition was filed earlier this year to highlight unauthorised construction by the police on Aravalli land.
As per previous orders by the Supreme Court, gair mumkin pahar and banjar kadeem lands are deemed forests, where no construction activities can take place.
Presently, in Bhondsi, the IRB occupies over 300 acres of PLPA notified land—on which it has built housing, offices and a research centre—but has applied for a change of land-use for only 59 acres of this area.
Moreover, while the permission to divert forest land was first sought in 2015 (and then again in 2017), the structures themselves were built as early as 2004. A 480-metre-long check dam in Kadarpur village has also been subsumed by the project.
A forest department official, requesting anonymity, said, “About 30% of the area owned by the police comes under the category of deemed forests, making non-forestry activities illegal without prior clearances or permissions. A large amount of forest cover has been lost as a result of this construction, for which no permission was granted by officials at the time.”
On Tuesday, petitioner Yadav said, “The order is a positive one because it confirms that there is a violation of the law. However, this had already been done in previous reports.”
Following the IRB’s request to use forest land, an investigation carried out by the forest department revealed that about 62,000 trees were cut for the project, without any prior permission or provision of equivalent non-forest land, as mandated under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
In a report from May this year, the forest department noted, “The forest department has not granted any permission to the IRB for felling trees. Building and roads have been constructed without prior approval of the Government of India under provisions of the FCA.”
“Now, by roping in the chief secretary, there is a chance that the violation will be legitimised. What were the local authorities, including the forest department and the department of town and country planning, doing for 11 years before the violations came to light?” Yadav said Tuesday.