Envis Centre, Ministry of Environment & Forest, Govt. of India

Printed Date: Monday, February 26, 2024

Aravali losing green cover, orders ignored

 NEW DELHI: Despite several court orders and government notifications, the Aravali forest is facing decimation from both the rich and the poor. If the rich are illegally clearing forests in Aravali for their farmhouses since buying of such land is allowed in Haryana, the poor are cutting trees for fuel.

TOI saw large-scale clearing of forests in areas close to Ansals Aravali Retreat in Gurgaon, which has dozens of farmhouses. There are temporary roads through the forest and local women can be spotted chopping the kikar trees and carrying them home. "Sometimes, male members from nearby villages come and cut trees and then the women come to collect them," said a local resident.

Former forest conservator R P Balwan, who had taken on the mining and land mafia in Aravalis, said the very existence of a road inside the jungle was the first sign of devastation. "You can protect forests till there is no way.

Once there is road, material can be transported that paves way for construction. Even taking wood for fuel is illegal," he said.

The Aravali notification of May 1992 prohibits construction of dwelling units, farmhouse, sheds besides any mining operation and cutting of trees.

However, new boundary walls have also been built around plots and huge patches of trees and bush have been cleared in recent months. "I am concerned and worried to see this happening even as the law prohibits all such activities. Almost every week, we spot leopards in this region. If you block their natural corridor and finish the green cover, they will disappear," said Samir Thapar of Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Though Thapar bought a farmhouse in Aravali Retreat last year, he planted trees in a big way and has even taken up the issue of deforestation with the forest department. "We can't let this pristine green belt go," he said.

Meanwhile, what seems to be posing a fresh threat to the Aravalis in this region is that about 3,000 acres of forests may pave road for farmhouses and other non-forest activities. Locals said the private company owning this huge patch of land was selling plots to buyers. "Obviously, people are not buying the land to maintain as forest. It also shows how there is nexus between such people with the forest department," Balwan said.