scorecardresearch
Follow Us:
Monday, December 06, 2021

Haryana forest land row: Environmentalists say govt’s claim of 40% of state land being forests flawed

🔴 According to environmentalists, from 1966 to date – the highest area ever shown as closed under Section 4/5 of the PLPA in Haryana is around 65,000 hectare.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh |
November 26, 2021 12:36:15 am
Haryana forest land row: Environmentalists say govt's claim of 40% of state land being forests flawedThe environmentalists say that the state government claims are based on “delibrate interpretation of the SC order and is aimed at fear mongering”, as few of the PLPA provisions are just related to prior permission for cutting of trees.

A group of green activists have raised serious questions over the claims of Haryana government which says that “structures on nearly 40 per cent area of the state will need to be demolished if the administration implements the Supreme Court’s 2018 verdict in the Faridabad Kant Enclave demolition case”.

The environmentalists say that the state government claims are based on “delibrate interpretation of the SC order and is aimed at fear mongering”, as few of the PLPA provisions are just related to prior permission for cutting of trees.

The Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900 (Punjab Act II of 1900), referred to as PLPA, was enacted by the then government of Punjab in 1900 under British rule. While deciding a case of Kant Enclave, a residential colony in Faridabad, the Supreme Court in September 2018 had observed that “we have no doubt that land notified by the state of Haryana under provisions of the PLP Act must be treated as ‘forest’ and ‘forest land’ and has in fact been so treated for several decades by the state of Haryana.”

The state government had recently apprised the Apex Court that the total area of 17,39,907 hectares (39.35 per cent of the total geographical area of the state) has been notified under Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation (PLPA) Act. This includes 100 per cent area of at least 11 of the 22 districts — including Panchkula, Ambala, Yamunanagar, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Palwal, Mewat, Mahendragarh, Rewari, Bhiwani and Charkhi Dadri. The state government had stated, “About 39.35 per cent of the geographical area of Haryana, being notified under the provisions of the PLP Act, are required to be considered as forest and every structure constructed after issuance of the notification for the first time are required to be considered as illegal and are required to be demolished.”

Environmentalists, however, said the government’s interpretation that all structures need to be demolished just on the ground that they are covered under any provision of the PLPA was unfair. They also allege that attempts are being made to protect illegal farm houses/banquet halls with such assertions.

A former IFS officer, RP Balwan, told The Indian Express, “The PLPA came into existence long ago, but nobody treated the areas notified under Section 3 as forest. In the annual reports since 1966, the state forest department has been mentioning nearly one percent of the state area as actual forest.”

Explaining why Section 3 notified areas are clearly not forest, the environmentalists say, “Section 3 notifications were issued to identify the broad regions which required conservation thereafter.”

“The general Section 4 of the PLPA order covers wide areas, like all of Gurgaon, under it. The regulation is only on tree cutting without permission and permission is given routinely. Fine for violation is only Rs 100,” said one of the environmentalists, while claiming that the Haryana forest department has never treated general Section 4 notified areas as forests in any document or record.

According to environmentalists, from 1966 to date – the highest area ever shown as closed under Section 4/5 of the PLPA in Haryana is around 65,000 hectare. Currently, they claim this area is around 31,738 hectare (including expired notification areas), which is just around 0.72% of the land area of the state.

Green crusader, Colonel SS Oberoi, said, “Haryana has misinterpreted the SC orders to first claim in 2019 that 25 per cent of the state had become forest and is now claiming that over 39 per cent area is forest. The reality is that it is not willing to protect even the 0.7% of areas closed under the PLPA.”

Expressing similar sentiments, forest analyst, Chetan Agarwal, says, “Haryana’s PLPA amendment is retrospective to 1966 and is based on a wrong premise that 25 per cent of the state has become forest. If the government’s plea is accepted then the ‘forest’ tag to the Aravallis in Gurgaon and Faridabad and south Haryana will be lost.”

When asked about the objections of the environmentalists, a senior officer of Haryana government refused to comment stating they had already filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court in this regard.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest Chandigarh News, download Indian Express App.

  • Newsguard
  • The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.
  • Newsguard
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement