State Approves Construction In Aravali, Environmentalists Concerned
With diminishing forest cover, Haryana is all set to further compromise the Aravali green belt as Municipal Corporation of Faridabad has issued six letters of intent (LOIs) to farmhouses that have come up in the Aravali. It is important to note that the Aravali is classified as ‘forest’ land in the official records. These approved farmhouses and banquet halls also lies in the ‘natural conservation zone’ (NCZ) as defined in NCR’s regional plan 2021 that talks about construction ban in all Aravali areas.
The case history
Earlier, the National Green Tribunal had issued notices to the Centre and the state on the construction in Aravali on the basis of the plea filed in the green court to demolish the apartments located in the green belt. This was related to Khasra No 75 which is designated as “Gair Mumkin Pahar’ or hilly land unfit for cultivation. Despite the restrictions on construction in the specified area and the violation of 1992 notification issued by environment ministry for Aravali, five residential towers were built in collaboration and with knowledge of Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon and the builder. The plea mentioned the provision of restriction of non-forest activities, "including setting up industries, construction of clusters of dwelling units, farms houses, sheds, community centres and any other activity connected with such construction" in the Aravalis according to 1992 notification.
Later in a reply to NGT on the Sarai Khwaja Village where 10,000 trees were chopped off to give way to a housing project, NCR Planning Board mentioned that since 2005 Aravali is a natural conservation zone with a construction cap of 0.5 per cent. This permissible construction limit is for regional recreational activities like regional parks and sanctuaries and not for commercial, residential, tourism, and other real estate purposes. It was the first time that the state mentioned ‘yet to be decided’ category for similar other areas where construction is questionable. Specified areas such as “Gair Mumkin Pahar, Gair Mumkin Rada, Gair Mumkin Behed Or Banjad Beed Or Rundh” are few other types of which Haryana government is yet to ascertain the status of the land.
The current scenario
As the letters of intent have been issued and fees for construction have also been charged from the builders, the municipal corporation has said that these permissions are not final and that the intent letters are subject to “adherence and fulfilment of all terms and conditions within a period of 30 days”. The move by the authority is being seen as opening the Aravali for land use change. According to the state government, the land for which the LOIs have been provided are in the ‘yet to be decided’ category. However, the environmentalists are crying foul as they allege that these permissions violate the forest conservation act and the orders of SC and NGT. A CSE or Centre of Science & Environment report has raised red flags on Gurgaon’s depleting and near extinction groundwater and unbreathable air.
Why is Aravali important?
The region is the main wildlife habitat in a rapidly urbanizing area and plays an important role in groundwater recharge, moderating desertification and air pollution. It is a key element of the ecological infrastructure for the NCR area.