Parts of the Aravalli Range surrounding the National Capital Region (NCR) are set to be excluded from the natural conservation zone (NCZ), ecologically sensitive areas that are demarcated for conservation only. As per The Times of India (ToI), Haryana state-level committees tasked with determining what will come under NCZ are planning to hold a meeting on September 15, and the meeting’s agenda mentions the decision to exclude several stretches of the Aravallis from NCZ. These, as per the ToI report, include sanctuaries, major lakes and water bodies. This will let the state allow construction and development in these reaches. A large part of the area being cleared for development is bhood, or the sandy foothills of the Aravallis that act as water recharge zones. It should be noted that the Supreme Court had, earlier this week, pulled up the Haryana government for allowing construction on the foothills of the Aravallis in Faridabad and ordered the demolition of all buildings of a 52-acre patch developed by Bharti Realty.
Deliberations between successive state governments and the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB)—the entity tasked with the regulation of development in the national capital region under the 2021 Regional Plan that demarcated all Aravalli areas as NCZ—have not been fructuous. On June 15, 2017, Haryana wrote to the NCRPB effectively saying there is no Aravalli reach in Haryana outside Gurugram district for the purposes of inclusion in NCZ. As a result, over 17,000 acres in Faridabad seem to have simply vanished from Haryana’s reckoning of its Aravalli areas. Not just that, in 2013, the government of Haryana proposed that the 0.5% cap on construction in NCZ be removed, which was accepted by the NCRPB. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had to intervene for the exception clause to be junked. With the Centre for Science and Environment raising red flags on the near-extinction of Gurugram’s groundwater reserves, Haryana seems to be playing with its water security by giving up vast forest and aquifer areas for construction—in fact, the state has given away the largest forest cover among states for development and construction. Sustainability shouldn’t be the price that people of the state pay for apartment complexes and real estate development.