NCR Planning Board Ordered State To Comply With Supreme Court OrderJayashree Nandi & Bagish Jha TNN
New Delhi: Haryana government will have to delineate ‘forests’ in the state as per the dictionary meaning of the word. The minutes of the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB’s) meeting held in December 2017 suggest that the board has directed NCR states to mark forests in compliance with the Supreme Court directions in the TN Godavarman case. It has also ordered the extension of the definition of ‘Aravalis’ across the entire NCR according to the Union environment ministry’s 1992 notification. These will have farreaching impact on real estate in NCR, particularly in Gurgaon and Faridabad.
In the Godavarman case in 1996, the Supreme Court said forests should be defined by their dictionary meaning. The Union environment ministry says that if there is any dispute on whether an area constitutes a forest or not, a state-level committee with a representative from the environment ministry will look into the matter and decide after physically verifying the area as specified in the Supreme Court’s 2011 judgment on mining company Lafarge operating in the hills of Meghalaya.
As for what constituted the Aravalis, the May 1992 notification talked of categories such as gair mumkin pahar (uncultivable hill), gair mumkin rada (foothills, pastures), gair mumkin behed (ravined foothills), banjar beed (cultivable grassy foothills) and rundh (rocky areas between two hills) applicable in Gurgaon in Haryana and Alwar in Rajasthan. But NCRPB has directed that these specified areas be taken as the Aravalis across NCR, including the ecologically important stretches in Faridabad and Gurgaon.
This decision is significant because Haryana has been objecting to demarcating the Aravalis as per the 1992 notification, arguing that many areas and forests were in the “yet to be decided” category. TOI reported in August 2017 about the environment ministry informing the National Green Tribunal that the Aravalis across NCR could be defined vide the 1992 notification.
The NCRPB minutes suggest that Haryana chief minister submitted the 1992 Aravali notification was applicable only to two districts and “therefore adopting the same for entire NCR was not feasible”. But the secretary of the housing and urban affairs ministry pointed out that no specific definition of the Aravalis was available and so the areas specified in the 1992 notification had to be adopted for delineating the Aravalis in the entire NCR.
The planning board’s decision to use the dictionary meaning for marking a forest is likely to have a big impact on real estate in Gurgaon and Faridabad. Large land parcels here are currently under private ownership, but may now fall under the definition of a forest. Haryana government has often been accused of ignoring the existence of forests and the Aravali range while handing out real-estate licences.
The decision to extend the definition of Aravali across NCR is, in turn, expected to increase the area under the National Conservation Zone, since till date only gairmumkin pahar is considered as such under the 1992 notification.
Following NCRPB’s direction, the Faridabad district town planning board issued a letter on February 22 for a fresh ‘ground truthing’ of areas currently defined as ‘status to yet to be decided’. No such exercise has been started in Gurgaon yet and officials said they were awaiting directions.