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Weekly Pullouts » Haryana Tribune

Posted at: Oct 6, 2018, 12:03 AM; last updated: Oct 6, 2018, 12:03 AM (IST)

Ray of hope for Aravalli range

SC judgment: No construction on land notified as forest
Ray of hope for Aravalli range
Constructions have mushroomed all around Aravalli hills in Gurugram. Tribune photo: S Chandan

Sumedha Sharma

The recent Kant Enclave judgment of the Supreme Court has defined a forest what numerous committees formed by the state government could not do. The judgment has not only come as a breather for the depleting Aravalli forest in Faridabad but has also raised the hope of saving the remaining forest and reclaiming over 12,000 hectares of similarly lost forestland in Gurugram and Faridabad. 

The judgment clears all realty-driven confusion over the legal status of a “forestland” notified under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA). It clearly states that once a land is notified as forest under the PLPA, no construction can be carried out or validated there and constructions, if any, need to be demolished. The court has said that for the rest of Aravalli areas, which meet the criteria of forest as per the dictionary meaning but are not notified under the PLPA, the order is relevant. To sum up: the ruling emphaises that a “Forest means only forest”.

A 2006 Supreme Court order made it mandatory for all state governments to identify forests as per the dictionary meaning of the word, besides lands that were demarcated as forest in the records. But the Haryana Government has been dilly-dallying on the issue though it has formed various committees to define a forest.

Around 25,000 hectares in Haryana have been notified as forests under the PLPA, but the status of around 12,000 hectares, primarily in Faridabad and Gurugram, is “yet to be decided”. Out of these 12,000 acres, 7,000 acres fall in Gurugram with major chunks at Gwalpahari, Ghamroj, Ghata, Chakkarpur, Rithoj and Bandhwari long lost.

“Even a primary class student knows what a forest is but successive Haryana governments kept on creating confusion about it. Successive governments set up numerous committees to define the land notified under the PLPA while throwing it up for grabs. Thousands of hectares were grabbed by builders and influential people by twisting the definition. The decision of the Supreme Court has made the legal status clear and now it's time that all land chunks such as Kant Enclave are freed and the forest is revived before Gurugram turns into an environmental disaster,” says environmentalist Jitender Bhadana.

Besides, around 7,000 hectares in Gurugram, and more than 5,000 hectares in Faridabad are also covered under the PLPA and environmentalists want these also to be freed from the clutches of builders on the basis of the Kant Enclave judgment. They have approached the local authorities to seek their intervention. 

The Aravalli range spread over 692 km used to be one of the biggest forest areas covering Gujarat, Rajasthan, Delhi and Haryana. The range spreads across five southwest divisions of Gurugram, Faridabad, Mewat, Mahendragarh, and Rewari. Ironically, it was declared the most “degraded” forest range in India, according to a study of Aravalli hills in southern Haryana by the Wildlife Institute of India.

The study conducted between January and April 2017 found that “most of the indigenous plant species have disappeared… and the most serious threat to wildlife and forests is from developmental activities, which are gradually destroying the remnants of the Aravalli”.

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