About 8,000 hectares of Aravalis in Faridabad not part of NCZ: Haryana government – ET RealEstate

GURUGRAM: Around 8,000 hectares of the Aravalis in Faridabad are not part of the Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ), the Haryana government has pointed out. This is likely to pave the way for constructions in the green area, an issue that has led to several court petitions by environmental activists.

In a letter to all the districts, principal secretary (town and country planning) AK Singh has said that the protected Aravalis should be defined according to a 1992 notification by the Centre, which says that the “specific areas” of the forests are limited to Gurugram in Haryana and Alwar in Rajasthan.

“It has been noted that in the revenue record, there is no term namely ‘Aravalli’, rather there is only mention of ‘Gair Mumkin Pahar’. Accordingly, some of the districts have identified the areas recorded as ‘Gair Mumkin Pahar’, in revenue records, under NCZ by considering the same as ‘Aravalli’ and simultaneously highlighted the same for decision by state level committee for NCZ,” the letter said.

It further said, “On this issue the attention was drawn towards the minutes of the meeting held under the chairmanship of the chief secretary, Haryana in March 2017, wherein on the issue regarding identification of Aravalli, the following is recorded: ‘…Government of Haryana may consider this notification in old district Gurugram only and areas specified in the notification dated 07.05.1992 may be considered as Aravalli. Definition of Aravalli may not be extended to other Haryana sub-region areas which are not defined in the Aravalli notification dated 07.05.1992 unless the same is done by MoEF&CC through a similar notification. So only ‘specified areas’ in old district Gurugram existing on 07.05.1992 may be part of ‘confirmed NCZ’.”

The letter by Singh is based on findings of a “ground-truthing” exercise that was started in 2014 to identify areas that had been left out of the NCZ and those that were included inadvertently.

Environmental activists raised objections to the state government’s decision. “Instead of protecting the Aravalis, the Haryana government is protecting the interests of real estate developers. This is coming at the expense of wildlife and its habitats, air quality and ground water recharge. The government is trying to undermine the decision of the NCR planning board (which said Aravalis are spread in the entire region). This is a brazen attempt to open up Aravalis for real estate,” said Lt Col Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi (retired), an activist.

In a meeting with the state government in 2016, the NCR planning board had also referred to the Centre’s 1992 notification of the Aravalis only in Gurugram and Alwar. The board had then said that the Centre’s delineation could be extended in the “entire NCR region”.
About 8,000 hectares of Aravalis in Faridabad not part of NCZ: Haryana governmentThe order has taken many activists by surprise too. They pointed out that several Supreme Court judgments on mining in Faridabad were based on the premise that the activity was banned in the Aravali hills. In a recent verdict, the apex court had also ordered the demolition of 10,000 houses that had come up illegally in Khori village in the Aravali hills of Faridabad.

“There are so many documents showing that the Aravalis exist in other districts too. There are district gazette plans, the forest department’s working reports, the mining department’s documents and most importantly, the Supreme Court’s judgments banning mining. How can the Haryana government question its own documents?” asked RP Balwan, a former forest conservator of Gurugram.

The Haryana government has spent years deliberating on the definition of “forests”. In December 2016, it had agreed with the NCR planning board on the issue of forests. In 2017, the board had referred to the December 2016 meeting with the government and said that “specified areas (i.e. the land categories of Gair Mumkin Pahar or Gair Mumkin Rada or Gair Mumkin Behed or Banjad Beed or Rundh) as given in the MoEF’s notification dated 07.05.1992 are to be included while identifying/delineating Aravalli in entire NCR, by the participating states”.

A senior official in the housing and urban affairs ministry said the Centre’s notification was based on certain Supreme Court judgments regarding mining activities. He added that since they could not reach a specific definition of the Aravalis in previous meetings, they had resorted to the 1992 notification.

The fresh directive of the government, the officials pointed out, thus counters the decision reached at the 2016 meeting between the Haryana government and the NCR planning board.

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Not just protected land, all forest areas in Aravalis to be mapped – ET RealEstate

Picture for representational purpose only.

GURUGRAM: The forest department will now include all forest areas in its ongoing survey to map illegal encroachments in the Aravalis in Gurugram and Faridabad using drones.

Earlier, the plan was to carry out a survey of only forest land protected under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA).

The decision to conduct the survey was initially taken at a meeting headed by deputy commissioner Yash Garg earlier this month after a Supreme Court order to remove all encroachments from forest areas.

While hearing a petition on encroachment in the Faridabad Aravalis, the apex court had ordered the demolition of 10,000 houses in Khori village.

“As per the SC order, we are carrying out a survey of illegal encroachments in the entire forest areas of the two districts. This includes 7,019 hectares in Gurugram and 8,688 hectares in Faridabad.

The Aravali plantation area also overlaps with PLPA areas,” said Vinod Kumar, Haryana additional principal chief conservator of forests.

Earlier, the department was planning to survey 6,800 hectares under PLPA in Gurgaon and 5,430 hectares in Faridabad. After the survey has listed the types of structures built in and around the forest areas, the forest department will go through the records and identify the illegal ones.

“The survey is on the right track. We had a meeting with all Gurugram administration and MCG officials regarding the ongoing drone survey this week. A list will be prepared based on the survey report and subsequently demolition letters will be sent to the owners of illegal structures,” said V S Tanwar, principal chief conservator of forests, Haryana.

It has often been seen that residents of villages around the Aravalis, who were allotted land by the government for agriculture, sell it to private developers, who, in turn, build farmhouses and other such structures.

Khori, for instance, was one such village that had come up illegally on forest land.

Meanwhile, environmentalists pointed out that since the Haryana government has not finalised the definition of forest till now, the survey will still leave out areas which are yet to be declared as forest.

“The government has not yet finalised the definition of forest, and thus many forest areas haven’t been included in the survey. It was supposed to submit a list of areas which are part of natural conservation zones to the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change in 2019, which is still pending,” said Vaishali Rana Chandra, an environmental activist.

In Gurugram, around 4,180 hectares fall in the “yet to be decided” category, while Faridabad has 3,436 hectares.

“If Haryana decides on the definition of forest, the region will get more clarity regarding the definition of gair mumkin pahar (uncultivable hill), bhood (sand dunes) and foothills. Also, more areas will be identified as forest and can be included in the Aravalis. The state first needs to define forest in order to protect and conserve it,” said Vivek Kamboj, an environmentalist.

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Gurugram: From Aug 7, drones to survey illegal Aravali structures – ET RealEstate

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GURUGRAM: The forest department will begin a survey of illegal encroachments in the Aravalis from Saturday. Four drones will be used to conduct the week-long survey of 6,800 hectares of forest land falling under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), officials from the department said.

The decision to conduct the survey was taken at a meeting headed by deputy commissioner Yash Garg on Tuesday. Referring to a Supreme Court order on demolition of 10,000 houses in Khori village in the Aravalis, Garg had said removing unauthorised constructions in forest areas was “top priority”.

“We are starting a drone survey on Saturday in PLPA areas and will prepare a list of the illegal structures found. Action will be taken against their owners as per law,” said Rajeev Tajyan, divisional forest officer, Gurgaon.

Tajyan added, “Four teams will be deployed with one drone each to carry out the survey. It will take us seven days to finish the survey. Once it is complete, notices will be sent to the owners for demolition.” Each team will have three members.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, pointed out that a survey of illegal structures in Gurgaon’s Aravali areas was carried out last year too by the forest department, but no action was taken against the encroachers. A detailed list of these structures was submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the Sonya Ghosh vs state of Haryana case last year. Now, after fresh directives of the Supreme Court, the survey is being repeated, they said.

Last year’s survey report said there are at least 500 such farmhouses built illegally on Aravali land in Gurgaon, concentrated in areas like Gwalpahari, Gairatpur Bas, Sohna, Raisina and Manesar. The report also had details of the total area occupied by them and their locations.

“On June 18 last year, the forest department submitted a 308-page report to NGT regarding illegal structures in PLPA areas in Gurgaon. Why do they need to carry out the same exercise again? This is a deliberate attempt to provide more time to the owners of these illegal farmhouses,” said Vivek Kamboj, an environmentalist.

“The Sohna municipal council has issued 350 notices to owners of illegal structures and action has been taken against 20 of them. Despite this, the district administration as well as Sohna Municipal Council have failed to stop illegal construction and are not getting rid of encroachments,” said Vaishali Rana Chandra, another activist.

In 2018, NGT had given the Haryana government two months to set up a committee and another three months to identify all forest land covered under the Aravali Notification that came into force in 1992. T

he committee was, however, set up only in July 2019, after which demolition notices were issued to several farmhouses. No demolitions, however, were carried out.

Acting on NGT’s directions, the Gurgaon administration had in June 2020 replaced the term “gair mumkin farmhouse”, which had found its way into the revenue records and helped farmhouse owners skirt provisions of the Aravalis Notification, with the original term, “gair mumkin pahad” (uncultivable hill).

As per the report submitted to NGT by the state government, a total of 195 show-cause notices were issued to farmhouse owners for unauthorised construction in the Aravalis. Most of these farmhouses are in Ansals Aravali Retreat, which is located in Raisina.

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No rehabilitation plan, thousands fear becoming homeless in Aravalis – ET RealEstate

FARIDABAD: Holding her daughter’s wedding card, Shameena (35) stares at a wall of her house in Lakkarpur-Khori village. The wedding is on June 11 and their relatives from Bihar have started arriving. But Shameena is not sure if the wedding will happen. Local authorities have started making announcements on loudspeakers asking residents to vacate their houses, which will soon be pulled down.

Like Shameena, other families staying in around 10,000 houses in the Aravali forest area fear they will become homeless after the Supreme Court ordered Faridabad Municipal Corporation to clear the eco-sensitive zone of encroachments. While Monday’s order mentions that unauthorised structures have to be removed within six weeks, Faridabad deputy commissioner (DC) Yashpal Yadav said there is no rehabilitation plan for the affected families.

TOI spoke to several residents in the area who said they were never told it was forest land. They also showed Aadhaar and voter ID cards with local addresses and asked if they have the right to vote, why can’t they be rehabilitated?

“Around 15 years ago, our family shifted to Okhla from a village in Mainpuri after my husband got a job in a factory. He got to know that plots were available in Khori village. With all our savings, we bought a piece of land from a person who has sold almost all plots here,” said Vimlesh Sharma (45), whose husband works as a guard.

“Initially, we built a temporary structure because we did not have enough money. Gradually, we were able to build a permanent structure. If the authorities pull down our houses, they should also rehabilitate us. They should catch hold of the person who sold us the land.”

Mohammad Salim (61) said his family came to the area around 30 years ago. “This area has people from Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Orissa, Jharkhand and many other states. The government is asking us to stay at home because of the pandemic and then, it is taking away our homes. Why can’t they rehabilitate us if they want to demolish our houses?” he asked.

Another resident, Reeta, said her family has been staying here for about 15 years. “We don’t have power and running water. Leaders come here begging for votes. But they are nowhere now,” she said.

Deputy commissioner Yadav told TOI, “There should be some ground for rehabilitation. When I was the subdivisional magistrate here in 2012, we had completely removed encroachments from the area. The structures that you see now were built after 2012. People should not have bought land here since they did not get registry papers. It is fairly clear that this is forest land. People who bought the plots were aware of the risks. The Supreme Court has ordered demolition and we will follow that. The residents had filed an appeal for rehabilitation on which the Supreme Court gave the order. So people should accept it. There is no rehabilitation plan at the moment.”

He added that they are trying to talk to the residents and asking them to vacate the area. “We are collating information about police force and equipment required to carry out the demolition drive,” he said.

The Supreme Court had stopped mining activities in the Aravalis by several orders since 2001. But Lakkarpur-Khori area saw thousands of families building houses till the court intervened and sought removal of encroachments. On Monday, Gonsalves had pleaded before the court that most villagers could be given houses at alternative sites if the Haryana government rehabilitation policy cutoff was changed from 2003 to 2015. “Most of them have been living there since the 1980s when mining was carried on in Aravali. But they don’t have documents to prove it. They have proof of residence since 2010,” he had said.

The Supreme Court has asked the municipal commissioner and the state’s forest secretary to file affidavits of compliance and said their reports on removal of unauthorised houses on forest land would be verified by an independent team. It also told the counsel for Haryana government that the state must take steps to implement the court orders failing which, the state chief secretary would be made answerable, if needed. On Monday, the court had also said the Faridabad SP will be personally responsible for providing adequate forces to facilitate the demolition drive. The next hearing is on July 27.

The residents, however, are at a loss. Reeta Singh, who lost her husband a year ago, said her house was demolished around five years ago. But her husband rebuilt it. “Our neighbours said the nearby areas have also developed like this. Nothing will happen. So, we stayed back,” she said.

Meanwhile, hardly a day left for her daughter’s wedding, Shameena, said almost all arrangements are done. “I have paid for the tent and the caterer. But I don’t know if I will have my house till June 11,” she said. Her neighbour Reeta said her daughter-in-law is in her final month of pregnancy and in this condition, they don’t know where to go. “If they come to pull down our house, we will stand in their way,” she said.

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