The National Green Tribunal (NGT), by terming parts of the Aravallis in Haryana as forests, has given the range a breather.
The National Green Tribunal (NGT), by terming parts of the Aravallis in Haryana as forests, has given the range a breather. Describing as “erroneous in law” the stand of the Haryana government and the Union ministry of environment and forests which insisted the area in question was not a forest, the NGT classified the 52.3-acre patch in Faridabad as one. This ruling has important implications for the Aravallis on which illegal construction continues unabated. The Haryana government, in the beginning of this month, enacted amendments to the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) that would have opened up thousands of acres of the Aravallis to activities like mining and construction by retrospectively legitimising all the illegal construction activities that have been carried out in the concerned area.
In 1996, the Supreme Court ordered all state governments to identify forests in their jurisdiction; though, under the PLPA, 25,000 hectares in Haryana are identified as forests, the Haryana government’s response to the SC order managed to keep over 12,000 hectares out of notification as forests. And despite a construction ban on notified areas of the Aravallis in 2004 that was expanded to cover a larger area in 2009, projects like the Kant Enclave have brazenly been executed. The apex court, in September of last year, had also ruled that land held by Haryana under the PLPA “must be treated as forest and forest land”, and the failure of the state to implement repeated and consistent rulings demonstrates how Haryana has managed to sidestep the issue, at a grave cost to the environment. The NGT ruling—as well as the recent SC order that stayed the implementation of the PLPA amendments made by Haryana—are thus welcome ones. The problem is the orders have come too late in the day for vast swathes of Aravalli land that have been denuded of their flora and fauna. If the deemed forest classification were to offer any protection by getting extended to the surviving forests of the Aravallis, the order would truly have proved meaningful.