Illegal Land Acquisition In The Aravalli Hills
Sanctuary's Maitreyee Mujumdar writes to India's Environment Minister on the devastation of the Aravalli range in Haryana and its ecological repercussions.
Shri Prakash Javadekar,
Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
Subject : Illegal Land Acquisition in Kot, Haryana.
I work as Project Coordinator with the Sanctuary Nature Foundation, a Mumbai-based conservation organisation. I recently learned about the 400 acres of forested common lands in the Aravalli hills of Faridabad, Haryana that is under serious threat from commercial activities. It has been disheartening to learn that 400 acres of this common land belonging to the gram panchayat of Kot village has been illegally purchased by Herbo Ved Gram Private Limited, Verve Corporation and others even though 80 per cent of the village land falls under "Gair mumkin Pahad" and is an ecologically rich hilly part of the Aravalli forest. This land has already been declared as a property of Gram Panchayat as per Supreme Court’s judgement on 28th of January 2011. Moreover the the recent order of consolidation of land passed by the government is a huge threat to the forest and has opened the doors for these commercial activities.
At 3.59 per cent, Haryana already has the lowest forest cover in the country. The forested hills located on the boundary of Delhi Gurgaon and Faridabad, are part of the last remaining natural Aravalli forest around Delhi. This area is not only the sponge for the water table that provides water to the entire state of Delhi but is also blessed with rich wildlife. There have been reports of species like leopard, nilgai, hyena and jackal from this area.
It is particularly shameful to note that despite the orders of the Supreme Court in 1996, the state has failed to identify forested hilly tracts of the Aravallis and take action to protect these. Meanwhile the amendment to the PLPA Act has threatened 75,000 acres i.e. 33 per cent of the effective forest land in the state.
I urge your Ministry to take immediate action towards stopping illegal commercial or agricultural activities that are taking place and are being proposed in the deemed forest areas of Kot and Mangar.
The implications of opening the forest land to real estate or other commercial agencies without any legal protection will be grave, causing threat to not just the stunning biodiversity in this area but may also result in destruction and pollution of aquifers in the Aravalli range that can disturb the water tables providing water to the states of Delhi and Haryana. The NCR is already globally notorious for its terrible pollution levels and it is the duty of the government and civil society to address and reverse this reputation.
I urge you to take immediate action on this issue, identify forest patches in the region and notify these as Reserved and Protected Forests.
Sanctuary Nature Faundation