In another blow to the National Conservation Zone in the state of Haryana, the Ministry of Environment released its report last week recommending the exclusion of over 4,000 hectares of land from the conservation zone in Haryana. This land includes the ‘green lungs’ of the state—the Aravallis under its ambit. The conservation zone extends to parts in Faridabad and Haryana along with Rajasthan.
While the government has excluded 47% of the area from the conservation zone, the National Green Tribunal has ordered for the submission of a final report within the next three months. However, activists in the state have asserted that the delay in the submission of the final report is giving a leeway to corporates who are heavily banking on the new real estate opportunities that the exclusion will open up in the region.
Speaking to NewsClick, environment lawyer, Rahul Chaudhary said, “This is not surprising. What is key is the fact that the government over the last few years has made a concentrated effort to do away with the deemed forests, for example, Bharti- Airtel project. For the conservation zones, the modus operandi of the state will include removing the areas from the zones and then removing them from the deemed forest area by amending the PLPA. This would be made easier through this process to further corporate interests and to do this consolidation easily.”
He added, “The government is supposed to be the custodians of the forest lands, but they are now taking away conservation areas legally.”
If the area were to be made a part of the conservation zone, it would mean that all construction activity will be banned in the region. The decision of the ministry is based on the preliminary ground-truthing report of the zone for the NCR regional master plan 2021, which was initiated in 2014. The exercise was carried out to match data with the features on the ground.
Previously, an exclusive report by the Business Standard had revealed that Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Group has acquired over 400 acres of land in Haryana’s Aravalli region in Faridabad district.
The transactions for the large-scale forest land took place between 2014 and 2016. According to the report, the acquired land was “common land” or shamlat deh.
Criticising the Haryana government, the Supreme court in 2011 had directed that all common land, including shamlat deh, should be returned to the panchayats. The 3,000 acres of land across the Kot villages is also a part of this uncultivable common land.
Kumar Sambhav of the Land Conflict Watch said, “There are huge commercial interests in the Aravallis land. There are dubious deals [taking place] in the area to privatise and commercialise common lands. The investigation by the Business Standard was only tip of the iceberg. There has been a lot of dilly-dallying in the incorporation of the Aravallis in the National Conservation Zone.”
Speaking to NewsClick, Sarika Gupta, an activist working with the citizens of Gurugram to save the Aravallis, said, “This move is a blatant misuse of power by the BJP government. They are taking successive steps to take away the green cover that extends to Haryana and Rajasthan. We have been rallying behind the cause for clean air and we will continue to do so, as this motive of the government needs to be countered.”
The issue of the Aravallis, was a key concern in the state elections this year. The BJP in its campaign had stated that if they come back to power, the process to repeal PLPA will be in full swing, as it is restricting the development in the region. The party managed to get 40 of the 90 seats in Haryana and had to seek the help of the regional party, the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) to come back to power.
Previously, Manohar Lal Khattar government in February this year had opened up thousands of acres of land for the real estate developers by amending the Punjab Land Preservation (Haryana Amendment) Act [PLPA]. As much as 60,000 acres of forests, which adds up to 50% of the Aravali range in South Haryana in the districts of Gurgaon, Faridabad, Nuh, Mahendragarh and Rewari, is now open to commercial activities. While Gurgaon has over 16,000 acres of forests under PLPA, Faridabad has more than 10,000 acres of forests protected under the Act.
Also read: 'Aravallis to Be Kept Out of National Conservation Zone to Further Corporate Interests'