Haryana’s public works department has proposed a 16km road to link two parts of Gurgaon, cutting through a leopard corridor in the Aravalis. Though the PWD is tightlipped on its alignment, environmental activists have warned the road, if built, would destroy Mangarbani, the sacred grove on the Gurgaon-Faridabad border.
Sources in the Gurugram Metropolitan Development Authority said the road would cut through the buffer areas as well as the core area of the Mangar forest.
The road proposes to connect Gurgaon-Faridabad road to Sohna road by cutting across the Aravali ranges, allowing traffic headed for south Gurgaon to bypass city traffic. The road is likely to be built between the waste treatment plant at Bandhwari on Gurgaon-Faridabad road and Damdama lake on Sohna road. The stretch over which it would have to pass is a corridor for leopards connecting Asola Bhati Wildlife Sanctuary in Delhi to the Aravalis forests in Haryana.
The proposal comes at a time when another road project has met with strong protests from residents’ groups and activists — the plan to build a road through Aravali Biodiversity Park.
“Gurgaon and Delhi-NCR face serious pollution related problems. While the central government and courts are planning to ban vehicles to reduce pollution, the state government is trying to destroy the remaining green areas in the name of development,” said environmental activist S S Oberoi.
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Attack on green buffer: Experts
A proposed road in Gurgaon that would pass through a leopard corridor would destabilise the local ecosystem by destroying the buffer areas of nearby Mangar as well as affecting its core, say Aravali watchers. It would also inflict long-term harm by opening up the belt — currently off-limits for development under Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900 — for commercial and construction activities.
Several government officials TOI spoke to admitted this project would open Mangar to encroachment as well as damage the forest and affect its wildlife. “If executed, the project will completely ruin the Aravalis here,” said an official who was earlier working on the project. A highly-placed government source confirmed the area through which the road is to pass is a leopard habitat. “The area is a significant wildlife corridor and leopard habitat,” said the source.
Environmental activist Chetan Agarwal agreed, and said a recent study by Wildlife Institute of India for the state government showed the area was a habitat for leopards, hyenas, jackals and most other fauna found in the state. However, a “pahari rasta” (hilly path) does exist that cuts through the Aravalis while passing through villages Bandhwari, Kot, Mangar and Roj Ka Gujjar. According to environmentalists, it all comes under forest land. “If the proposed road follows the “pahari rasta” route, it will affect both core and buffer areas of Mangar Bani — the “sacred grove” that is also the largest forest in south Haryana,” said Agarwal.
A PWD official associated with the project said, “We’ve sent the proposal to the state finance committee, and will be in a position to comment further only if it gets their nod.” The project was proposed to accommodate traffic between Delhi and Sohna, and once complete, it would allow commuters to avoid Gurgaon’s traffic altogether, the official said, adding, “It’s (Mangar) not a reserve forest. We’d never have pursued the project if it damaged any forest.”