Centre to extend ban on mining in Aravallis across NCR
The Centre extended the ban on mining and other non-forest activities to 13 districts of Haryana, seven of Uttar Pradesh, and two of Rajasthan. Till now, it was applicable only to certain pockets of Gurgaon and Alwar district in Rajasthan.india Updated: Dec 28, 2016 16:20 IST
The Centre on Tuesday asked Delhi and its neighbouring states to ban mining and construction of farmhouses across the Aravalli range in the national capital region (NCR), declare rivers and tributaries flowing through it as national conservation zones, and increase the green cover by six times.
At a meeting of the NCR Planning Board, the central government extended the 1992 notification of the environment ministry’s ban on mining and other non-forest activities to 13 districts of Haryana, seven of Uttar Pradesh, and two of Rajasthan. Till now, it was applicable only to certain pockets of Gurgaon and Alwar district in Rajasthan.
“The notification issued by the ministry of environment & forests in 1992 clearly specifies that Gurgaon district in Haryana and Alwar district in Rajasthan should regulate certain processes and operations in specified areas of the Aravalli range. This notification will now guide identification and delineation of the Aravalli in the entire national capital region,” a statement issued by the board read.
However, environmentalist Amina Shervani questioned the feasibility of the move when the Gair Mumkin Pahar in Gurgaon — an area figuring in the 1992 notification — was yet to be included in the Aravallis because the state government was still conducting a survey. “Now the government will have to conduct the study again because 13 additional districts have been included through the board’s decision,” she added.
On paper, the development should put an end to mining and developmental activities on the Aravalli hills extending across the four states unless prior approval is acquired from the environment ministry.
However, this can happen only after the state governments notify forested areas under their jurisdictions as national conservation zones (NCZs). For that, they would have to conduct ground-truthing surveys, the statement said.
NCZs are defined as areas where construction beyond a limit of 0.5% is not permitted, in accordance with the National Capital Regional Plan-2021.
Green activists were far from enthused by the decision. Claiming that state governments have been given enough leeway to keep wooded zones not considered as forests out of the picture, Gurgaon-based environmentalist Vivek Kamboj said: “This is a deliberate attempt by the board and the bureaucrats to exclude many green areas from the 1992 notification.”
The board also said conservation zones in the Aravalli range should include major rivers like the Yamuna, Ganga and Hindon, besides tributaries and lakes such as Badkal, Suraj Kund and Damdama. This would result in additional restrictions on non-forest activities in and around the water bodies.
The decision was taken amid a rising demand to control air pollution levels in the region, and prevent the contamination of surface as well as ground water.
In the third directive, the board instructed Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to increase forest and green cover in the NCR to 20% of its total geographical area in a phased manner. It also expressed concern over the reduction in tree cover from 4.3% in 1999 to 3.3% in 2012.
However, environmentalists pointed out that a majority of wooded areas were being left out because the definition of forests was still unclear. The board has maintained that it would continue to be defined under existing statutes and laws until the ministry of environment, forests and climate change finalises a change with the Supreme Court’s approval.
During the meeting, Delhi and its adjoining states were asked to submit action plans to improve the forest cover and alleviate air pollution concerns. They were also directed to speed up inter-state connectivity for seamless travel in the region and initiate the NCR Regional Plan for 2041.
The NCR comprises the national capital, besides 13 districts of Haryana, seven of Uttar Pradesh and two of Rajasthan.
First Published: Dec 21, 2016 01:17 IST