Cap on con­struc­tion needed

Re­moval of 0.5% limit will en­cour­age ram­pant coloni­sa­tion

HT Estates - - HTESTATES - Van­dana Ram­nani

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.

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