Gur­gaon’s eco-sen­si­tive first step

By in­clud­ing Aravalli ar­eas and old nal­lahs in NCZ, Gur­gaon will set an ex­am­ple for other states

HT Estates - - FRONT PAGE - Van­dana Ram­nani Ip­sita Pati

The move last week by the Gur­gaon ad­min­is­tra­tion to re­vise Nat­u­ral Con­ser­va­tion Zone (NCZ) to in­clude eco-sen­si­tive ar­eas such as the waste­lands in the Aravalli foothills and pa­leo- chan­nels (old nal­lahs) has been hailed by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists. Call­ing it a first step for­ward, which should be em­u­lated by all cities in In­dia, en­vi­ron­ment ex­perts say now nat­u­ral wa­ter recharge bod­ies will be pre­served and not used for con­struct­ing highrises or high-end farm­houses. The NCR Re­gional Plan 2021, pub­lished in 2005, marked out eco- sen­si­tive ar­eas like the Aravallis, forests, rivers, wa­ter bod­ies and ground­wa­ter as NCZ. Most of the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion Plan­ning Board (NCRPB) mem­ber states, such as Ut­tar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana and Ra­jasthan, which were re­quired to fac­tor in NCZ in their sub­re­gional plans and master plans did not bother to do so for 11 years.

Ritwick Dutta, en­vi­ron­ment lawyer, says the NCZ con­cept is very rel­e­vant to­day. There are many res­i­den­tial projects (read hous­ing blocks) com­ing up in sec­tors with wet­lands, storm wa­ter drains, ravines, gul­lies, foothills etc in the NCR. No ef­fort has been made to ear­mark or sci­en­tif­i­cally un­der­stand the eco­log­i­cal func­tion they per­form, adds Dutta, who has set up the En­vi­ron­ment Im­pact As­sess­ment ( EIA) Re­sources and Re­sponse Cen­tre, which pro­vides an ac­ces­si­ble data­base on en­vi­ron­ment im­pact as­sess­ment re­ports, along with a crit­i­cal anal­y­sis.

While cities such as Ma­ha­balesh­war, Panch­marhi, Panch­gani and Mount Abu have been de­clared as eco­log­i­cal sen­si­tive zones they have not de­lin­eated NCZ as a sep­a­rate zon­ing cat­e­gory and if Gur­gaon does it, it would be the first city to have done it, he says.

Un­der­lin­ing the dif­fer­ence be­tween green belts in master plans and nat­u­ral con­ser­va­tion zones, Dutta says the for­mer are ar­ti­fi­cial plan­ta­tions or land­scaped ar­eas that have an aes­thetic func­tion to per­form. The NCZ, how­ever, is a nat­u­ral de­mar­ca­tion and plays a se­ri­ous eco­log­i­cal role in main­tain­ing wa­ter ta­bles and serv­ing as the pri­mary source of ground­wa­ter recharge in NCR. By de­lin­eat­ing th­ese ar­eas as such in the master plan the ad­min­is­tra­tion is legally en­sur­ing th­ese ar­eas can only be put to spe­cific use (forestry, wa­ter body, agri­cul­ture) and must be con­served and pro­tected at any cost.

“We are ready to in­cor­po­rate all im­por­tant ar­eas, in­clud­ing waste­land and palaeo- chan­nels. All stake­hold­ers have been di­rected to give de­tails of such ar­eas, which will be in­cor­po­rated in NCZ,” deputy com­mis­sioner TL Satyaprakash, who heads Gur­gaon’s dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion, had said last week. This move came after com­ments from the for­est de­part- ment, Haryana, on the in­terim NCZ maps. Ear­lier in March, the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT) is­sued a notice to the Haryana gov­ern­ment, ask­ing why it had ex­cluded nearly 50,000 hectares of land, in­clud­ing vast ar­eas of the Aravallis, from the NCZ.

The notice was is­sued after a city- based en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, Colonel SS Oberoi, moved the green court after the state gov­ern­ment last year de­cided to re­duce NCZ area to about 42,000 hectare from 95,000 hectare in the Haryana sub­re­gion of the NCR.

“The au­thor­i­ties have been re­duc­ing NCZ in the sub-re­gional plan. The plan sim­ply says that NCZ area is about 42,000 hectare. There is no men­tion of the re­main­ing land, where a lot of wa­ter bod­ies, for­est and wet­lands ex­ist. The area also has a flour­ish­ing wildlife,” said Oberoi, who had filed the pe­ti­tion in the green court in 2015.

They were asked by the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT) to plant 10 trees as penalty for one tree felled by them in Man­gar Bani, a grove off the Gur­gaonFarid­abad Road, but noth­ing, not even a sapling, has been planted by the pe­nalised de­vel­op­ers. The Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (NGT), on March 17, also slapped a fine of ₹ 1 lakh on three real es­tate firms for al­legedly try­ing to de­velop more than 400 acres of the for­est land. Vil­lagers and en­vi­ron­ment ac­tivists had wel­comed the NGT move, say­ing it would pre­vent de­for­esta­tion. The Man­gar Bani and ar­eas fall­ing within ‘gair mumkin pa­har’ (un­cul­tivable) in Man­gar vil­lage are parts of the Aravalli range which is cov­ered with herbs, shrubs and trees. It is rich in flora and fauna and any de­vel­op­ment work will dis­turb the frag­ile ecosys­tem.

Though the fine of ₹ 1lakh on the de­vel­op­ers seems to be a pal­try sum, ac­tivists feel it is a sig­nif­i­cant move. “Whether it is ₹ 1 lakh or ten times more, it doesn’t seem to be much from the developer’s per­spec­tive, but when we look at the cir­cum­stances, this fine mat­ters,” said Chetan Ag­gar­wal, en­vi­ron­ment an­a­lyst.

Con­tin­ued on page 05

AB­HI­NAV SAHA/HT

The Gur­gaon ad­min­is­tra­tion last week fi­nally agreed to re­vise the nat­u­ral con­ser­va­tion zones to in­clude waste­lands in the Aravalli foothills and old nal­lahs.

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