SC Slams Haryana For Allowing Construction Activity In Aravalli
The Supreme Court (SC) came heavily on the Haryana government on March 1 for lifting a construction ban on the Aravalli green belt and ordered to hold off implementing the law for now. It was on February 27 that the state assembly had passed the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) Amendment Bill, 2019. This amended act was expected to open the Aravalli range in Gurgaon and Faridabad for real estate development, mining and quarrying. It is important to note that the Aravalli has been classified as ‘forest’ land in the official records. However, this Bill would remove the legislative protection and reduce forest cover in a state that already has the minimum in the country, at 3.59 per cent.
Following the amendment, Gurgaon will lose 17,000 acre of Aravalli land and Faridabad will lose over 10,000 acre of forest cover that was earlier notified under the PLPA.
What is PLPA?
The Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) protects the states of Punjab and Haryana, which are prone to soil erosion due to water flow in the rugged and sloppy terrain and areas of southern and western Haryana. These areas have been put under restriction of certain activities under this law, including real estate development and mining. Following are the amendments that will change the face of Aravalli:
- Section 3(A) states that provisions of PLPA will not apply to land included in the final development plans of urban areas — the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority Act, Faridabad Metropolitan Development Authority Act 2018 and the Haryana Municipal Corporation Act, 1994.
- Under section 4 and 5 of PLPA before its amendment, the felling of trees, quarrying, and cultivation or breaking up of land was prohibited in areas listed under PLPA which includes 38 villages in Gurgaon and 17 villages in Faridabad. All of these areas will be exposed to quarrying and real estate development.
Why is Aravali important?
The changes in the law will have major implications on the entire National Capital Region (NCR), which is already battling severe air pollution. The Aravalli range in south Haryana act as a barrier against dust intrusion from Rajasthan and a large groundwater recharge zone for the entire NCR. Among areas of ecological importance to be affected by the amendment include Mangar Bani, Badhkal and Surajkund catchments in Faridabad, and the entire Golf Course stretch of the Aravalli foothills in Gurgaon. The region is the main wildlife habitat in a rapidly urbanising area and plays an important role in moderating desertification.