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
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