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Haryana govt to move SC for removal of protection cover from Aravallis

Gurugram: According to sources in the Haryana government, the amendment to the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 2019, which removes a legal shield in place since 1,900 on thousands of acres of land in the Aravali and Shivalik foothills in Haryana, could be sent to the Supreme Court soon for approval.

The amendment bill was passed by the assembly this February and was sent to the governor for approval. The sources said the governor had given his assent. There was, however, no confirmation of this from the governor's office.

The Supreme Court had in March ordered a stay on the amendment, describing the move as "obnoxious" and "contemptuous". The court had also observed that the move was a violation of its previous orders on the Aravalis. The amendment excludes from its ambit municipal areas and those notified under master plans.

A city like Gurugram, which is notified under three master plans, will go entirely out of PLPA's purview, as will large portions of foothills in Faridabad. The total area under PLPA in Gurugram is 6,869 hectares. In Faridabad, it's 4,227 hectares. The 118-year-old Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) of 1900 is meant to protect areas 'not notified' under the Indian Forest Act as the reserve or protected forests in the states of Haryana and Punjab.

In Haryana, the PLPA extends protection to forests and trees on private lands, community lands, panchayat and municipal lands in the uncultivable hills of the Aravallis in the south and Shiwaliks in the northern parts of the state. Forest areas notified as per special orders under the PLPA in Haryana amount to 75,000 acres i.e. 33 per cent of the effective forest land in the state.

These Aravalli areas notified under PLPA have been treated as forests following Supreme Court judgements in 2002 and 2004, reiterated in 2008 and 2009 (MC Mehta case), and again clarified in 2018 (Kant Enclave matter). The 20-30-year-old notifications are usually renewed on expiry. Interestingly Gurugram district has 16,930 acres of Aravalli forests notified under PLPA in 38 villages. Notifications in 36 villages have expired.

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