Why de­stroy NCR’s only green lung? 500 me­tre buf­fer zone ‘not enough’

Man­gar Bani is to re­alty play­ers what penny stocks are to in­vestors ALL ABOUT THE MAN­GAR BANI IN THE ARAVALLIS The en­tire area from the Delhi bor­der till Sariska must be de­clared a re­served for­est

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani

Re a l t y d eve l o p e r s have so far evinced a lot of in­ter­est in the land parcels in the Aravallis that are recorded in the rev­enue records as gair mumkin pa­har or non-cul­tivable land and not forests. The hopes they had har­boured of ur­ban­i­sa­tion in the area are now dashed with Haryana’s de­ci­sion to pro­tect the Man­gar Bani area and de­mar­cat­ing a 500 me­tre buf­fer as No Con­struc­tion Zone (NCZ) in­stead of the 60 me­tre en­vis­aged ear­lier.

From a con­ser­va­tion per­spec­tive, too, says Anckur S r i v a s t t av a o f G e n Re a l Ad­vis­ers, why does Man­gar Bani need to be touched at all? Is there such a dearth of land in the Farid­abad or Gur­gaon Mas­ter Plan ar­eas that more land in this zone is re­quired? Why are peo­ple en­croach­ing upon the limited amount of lung space that the NCR has?

Th­ese land banks are like penny stocks. Like in­vestors, re­al­tors pick up in­ex­pen­sive land parcels and wait for a price run till the time the area gets in­cluded in the ur­ban zone. Many of them have picked up land for 3 lakh per acre which is now val­ued at 15 lakh per acre depend­ing on the lo­ca­tion. Once it is open to ur­ban­i­sa­tion, the ap­pre­ci­a­tion can be as high as 3 crore per acre, he adds. En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists re­fer to Man­gar Bani as the ‘last vir­gin for­est’ in the NCR. How­ever, de­spite sev­eral guide­lines and court or­ders for pre­serv­ing the ‘sa­cred’ wooded area in the Aravallis, the Haryana gov­ern­ment has con­sis­tently failed to cat­e­gorise it as a for­est and if re­alty firms were to have their way, the ‘sa­cred’ wooded area would have van­ished Man­gar Bani, which has been pro­tected for cen­turies by the three vil­lages of Man­gar, Band­hwari and Bali­awas, is con­sid­ered sa­cred by the vil­lagers, who be­lieve that Gu­driya Baba, a lo­cal saint, at­tained sal­va­tion in this for­est. How­ever, due to its prox­im­ity to Delhi, Gur­gaon and Farid­abad, the for­est land at­tracted land sharks and pri­vate de­vel­op­ers Un­til about 50 years ago, Gur­gaon was the nat­u­ral habi­tat for tigers, whic have now be­come ex­tinct in the area. Man­gar Bani and its neigh­bour­ing for­est ar­eas in Haryana are im­por­tant as they form an un­frag­mented wildlife cor­ri­dor with the Aravallis in Ra­jasthan and Delhi. In the past year, leop­ards, pythons and other an­i­mals have been spot­ted here

The en­vi­ron­ment min­istry last year had is­sued a draft no­ti­fi­ca­tion ear­mark­ing an area of 100 me­tres to 1.27 km around the Okhla Bird Sanc­tu­ary as an eco-sen­si­tive zone, sub­stan­tially re­duc­ing the 10 km area pro­posed by the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT). This week, the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion Plan­ning Board (NCRPB) de­cided to pro­tect the Man­gar Bani area in Haryana and de­mar­cate a 500 m buf­fer as a No Con­struc­tion zone. The ques­tion, how­ever, is: are th­ese lim­its enough to save the en­vi­ron­ment – the flora and fauna in the re­spec­tive ar­eas from ur­ban­i­sa­tion?

Ac­cord­ing to Manoj Misra, head of Ya­muna Jiye Ab­hiyaan, a buf­fer around an eco­log­i­cal sen­si­tive area is a func­tion of its sen­si­tiv­ity and not any for­mula. Man­gar Bani is an eco­log­i­cal jewel that must be pro­tected zeal­ously. But com­pared to the pre­vi­ously pro­posed 60 me­tre, 500 me­tres is cer­tainly a wel­come change.

The Ut­tar Pradesh gov­ern­ment had pro­posed a buf­fer zone of 100 me­tre in case of the Okhla Bird sanc­tu­ary. Is the Haryana move some­thing that the UP gov­ern­ment should em­u­late?

Not re­ally, as a buf­fer is a mea­sure of the site’s sen­si­tiv­ity. Even in the case of the Okhla Bird Sanc­tu­ary it is un­for­tu­nate that UP is work­ing on a mere 100 me­tres, which by no yard­stick is the right buf­fer, Misra says.

Noted en­vi­ron­ment lawyer

There can­not be a thumb rule to fol­low. States have to first de­ter­mine the eco­log­i­cal sen­si­tiv­ity and then de­cide on the ex­tent of the req­ui­site buf­fer

Near cities it could be ‘no devel­op­ment’ buf­fer zone and ‘low devel­op­ment’ buf­fer zone Rahul Choud­hary is of the view that both the Man­gar Bani is­sue in Haryana and the Okhla Bird sanc­tu­ary case in Noida need to be treated dif­fer­ently. “The Haryana gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to set aside a 500 mtere buf­fer zone to pro­tect the Man­gar Bani is not enough,” he says.

The en­tire area from the Delhi bor­der till Sariska should be de­clared as a re­served for­est. This buf­fer serves no pur­pose, es­pe­cially if the Haryana gov­ern­ment is to meet its ob­jec­tive of cre­at­ing a for­est cover of 20% as stated in its for­est pol­icy.”

Okhla is a bird sanc­tu­ary and not a for­est. “The Supreme Court in its 2006 or­der had cat­e­gor­i­cally stated that the eco sen­si­tive zone around na­tional parks and sanc­tu­ar­ies should be of about 10 km and that the state gov­ern­ment would have to pro­pose how much land it sets aside for the pur­pose. And that till the time the state gov­ern­ment does not come out with a no­ti­fi­ca­tion, the 10 km limit will pre­vail,” says Choud­hary.

Deer, leop­ards, pythons and other an­i­mal and bird species have been spot­ted in Man­gar Bani

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