News & Media

December, 18

Haryana likely to leave 900 hectares of Aravali foothills out of protected area

  • Haryana likely to leave 900 hectares of Aravali foothills out of protected area
Aravali areas that enjoy any form of legal protection will get thinner. Haryana’s town and country planning department has directed all districts to submit a report on natural conservation zones (NCZ) but only after excluding ‘bhood’ (sandy foothills) areas. The exclusion of ‘bhood’, which helps recharge groundwater and is essential in slowing down aridness and desertification in Delhi-NCR, will open up hundreds of acres of land for commercial use. In places like Gurgaon, Sohna and Faridabad, that would be a real estate gold mine and will bring a revenue windfall to state coffers through land licences. Should the government go ahead with it, around 900 hectares of land, now classified as ‘bhood’, will be left out of NCZ. However, the decision also indicates that concerns about the degradation of Aravalis and the effect that has on people who live around it, like erratic rainfall and increased air pollution, have once again taken a back seat. A government source said much of the ‘bhood’ area was already developed and it made little sense to classify the foothills as NCZ. Environmentalists, however, say ‘bhood’ includes sanctuaries, lakes and smaller water bodies and taking away their protection will sound the death knell for the Aravalis. “These areas have unique vegetation. There is a need to understand that ‘bhood’ forms an important ecology that is adapted to a particular type of soil, and is thus very important for groundwater recharge. Its destruction will lead to destruction of the entire Aravalis,” said Vivek Kamboj of NGO Haryali. In Gurgaon, most of the ‘bhood’ area that will get excluded from NCZs is in Bandhwari (287 hectares), followed by Bhondsi (124 ha), Sohna (107 ha) and Gwalpahari (101 ha). The exercise will also include a revision in Mewat, where the NCZ area had already been finalized. “It is submitted that in the meeting (last year) held under the chairmanship of chief secretary, Haryana, it was decided to exclude the ‘bhood’ area from NCZ. Report (on this) has been received from all districts. District Mewat was taken in confirmed NCZ category. Now, the same needs to be taken out of the purview of NCZ,” states the agenda of the state-level committee meeting of the department held last week. Sources in the town and country planning department said the final decision on exclusion of ‘bhood’ will be taken next week. “It was discussed in the last meeting. The final decision will be taken once a meeting takes place with the principal secretary,” said a source. The state government had earlier too recommended the exclusion of ‘bhood’. In a review meeting (on NCZ) in September 2018, it was decided that a ‘ground-truthing’ survey will be completed and its report submitted after verifying revenue records, ground realities and approval of district-level committees set up for the ‘ground-truthing’. The NCR Regional Plan 2021 identifies the entire Aravalis as NCZ and limits construction to 0.5% of its area. However, the Haryana government, in 2014, kept a large part of the Aravalis in the ‘yet to be decided’ category and started an exercise to identify if these qualify to be termed ‘forest’. I In July 2017, the state government wrote to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), saying these parts of the Aravalis have already been used for development projects and thus can’t be classified as forest.