Cap on construction needed
Removal of 0.5% limit will encourage rampant colonisation
The revised NCR regional plan proposes removal of the 0.5% restriction on construction in the natural conservation zone (NCZ) which technically means that only half an acre can be built on a 100- acre plot of land. The NCZ includes eco- sensitive areas such as Aravali hills, rivers, water bodies, sanctuaries and the land around lakes. Their protection is critical and mandatory because these areas maintain the ground water recharge capacity, the much-need water table itself and reduce air pollutants.
The proposed revision, after many changes, reads, “regional recreational activities (including tourism as per applicable state policies) with no construction exceeding 0.5% of the area except with the specific permission of the competent authority under applicable environment and forest laws.”
The previous regional plan 2021 ( notified i n 2005) had clearly spelt out that “regional recreational activities with no construction exceeding 0.5% of the area with the permission of the competent authority.”
This was a hard limit, requiring permission up to 0.5%, with no option of permissions beyond that. With the exception clause - there is no limit on construction in the natural conservation zones in the NCR, any percentage can be approved. By adding the provision of “including tourism as per applicable state policies,” the states are free to define what kind of construction they want to include in tourism. For example, Haryana’s Mega Tourism policy - applicable currently on a minimum of 300 acres, allows residential and commercial construction of 20% and 10% of the area, respectively. Thus, in the Aravalis, hotels, residences and commercial buildings can be built...if Haryana has its way, says Chetan Agarwal, environment analyst.
Also, the land suitability analysis that was mandatory for all master plans in the NCR has hardly been enforced in the past and is likely to be restricted only to new towns. The analysis helps determine if land is suitable for settlement, agriculture, forests etc. “This excludes existing master plans and expansion of towns where the bulk of urbanisation takes place,” says Sarvdaman Oberoi of the non-profit Mission Gurgaon Development.
Interestingly, the word ‘forest’ has been replaced with ‘green areas’ in the regional plan. The incorrect identification of these areas will mean that the Forest Conservation Act will not be applicable in these areas and open them up for colonisation. Green areas are non-agriculture, vegetated areas that include dense vegetated areas, including forests and open scrubs.
The notified 2005 region plan states that the forest cover has to comprise 10% of the total area of the NCR. “The word ‘forest cover’ has been replaced with ‘green area’ in the regional plan. Thus, there is no forest target in the NCR and this is a prima facie violation of the National Forest Policy 1988 that has proposed an overall target of forest cover of 33%. There is also a massive
discrepancy between the area of forest cover (2131 km) mentioned in the revised plan and the green area (1126.8 km). The forest cover is 89% more than the green area. Where has 1000 km of forest land disappeared? Why has it been identified as wasteland, he asks.
Environmentalist Manoj Misra says that the move to dilute environmental norms in the NCRPB led by Haryana
is fraught with grave dangers. In the name of tourism, vested interests can play havoc with natural systems like the Aravali, the Yamuna floodplains and catchment forests and other water bodies within the region.
Re a l t y e x p e r t A n c k u r Srivasttava says there is enough land available in the NCR. It will be better to redevelop existing tourism destinations in Haryana.