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Cost of development: Over 3,000 acres of Gurugram Aravallis may lose 'green belt' tag

Gurugram: A report prepared by Gurugram public agencies to the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCPRB) has recommended that over 3,000 acres of Gurugram Aravallis be taken out of the natural conservation zone (NCZ). At present 10,190 acres of Aravallis forest area in Gurugram is categorised under NCZ. If taken out, the protected area can be used for the construction and other forms of development activities.

The official report that was headed by the Deputy Commissioner also comprised of South Haryana forest division, Department of town and country planning (DTCP) and Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA).

Most of these forest areas are in Manesar and Sohna and comprise of various national security, defence and civil establishments. There are also plans by the government to open a university, 18-acre area for Delhi-Mumbai expressway and a hospital. Either in form of encroachment or weak laws, a population of more than two lakh people are already residing in the Aravllis of Gurugram and Faridabad that was earlier protected in the Punjab land and preservation act (PLPA).

Believed to be residing illegally, there is a possibility that they will now be deemed legal as per law. Not only this, around 9,000 hectares of Aravalli land in Gurugram that has been placed in the category of industrial land will soon be taken for infrastructural purposes. According to official sources, 6172 acres of the land comes under gair mumkin pahadi (reserve land of no utility).

Over 150 acres of this has either been encroached upon by the builders who have made illegal colonies, people who have to build the farmhouses and the villagers who have used this land as gram panchayats. It is estimated that over 50 farmhouses have come up in the Gurugram, side of Aravallis.

At present 29,431 acres of the forest area is classified under the natural conservation zone in South Haryana region. Out of this 28,570 acres is a forest. Owing to the lack of proper definition, various public departments of Gurugram are embroiled in a host of litigation cases. The Gurugram Forest Division is involved in over 30 cases over the Aravallis in the state.

One lakh hectare is the total area of Aravallis spread mostly around the areas in Gurugram, Mewat and Faridabad. One of the oldest forest areas in the world could have proved to be the green lungs for the two largest and most populated cities in Haryana. Instead, lack of delineation of forested area has resulted in the green belt area being encroached upon and exploited by illegal mining and builders. At 25,000 acres just one-fourth of the total area comes under the area where the construction is prohibited under the Punjab land preservation act which coincidentally was drafted during the British rule.

Over 62,000 acres come under the green belt area however as it has not been defined under forest over the years, the vast area of the land has been acquired under gram panchayats and other forms of human settlements. Over 12,800 hectares have completely been encroached upon as the state government has still not been able to categorise this land under forested area.

The legal cases over Aravallis are being fought in the District courts of Gurugram, Punjab and Haryana High Court, National Green Tribunal and also in the Supreme Court. Owing to the rapid degradation, the judiciary have pronounced tough judgement against the offenders.

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