Hundreds of Gurgaon residents took to the streets Sunday to protest against the amendments proposed by the Haryana government to the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900, in an ‘amendment bill’ that is expected to be tabled in the Vidhan Sabha in the coming days.
Environmentalists said the move will open up large areas of the Aravalli range for tree felling — which was barred under the Act. They estimate it will impact “over 60,000 acres of forests” in multiple districts, including Gurgaon, Faridabad, Nuh, Rewari, and Mahendragarh. In Gurgaon and Faridabad, over 10,000 acres of forests will be at risk.
“This subverts the Supreme Court’s directives to protect the Aravallis at any cost, and to treat PLPA areas as forests. The entire Aravallis will now be open for real estate development, mining, and any activity the state fancies. The amendments proposed are with retrospective effect, and are supposed to apply from 1966, meaning anything done after that will become null and void. All illegal construction and activity will become legitimised and legalised,” said environmental analyst Chetan Agarwal.
What PLPA envisioned
The Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900, enacted by the then Government of Punjab, aimed to prevent erosion of soil in areas that were found to be subject to erosion, or likely to be subject to erosion. It prohibits certain activities, including tree-felling, towards this end, and is applicable to several parts of 14 of the 22 districts of Haryana, including Gurgaon and Faridabad. It accounts for around 25 per cent of the state’s total geographical area.
The opposition in the Haryana Assembly slammed the move during a House session last week. Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar, however, said the “PLPA was coming in the way of development works in the state” and that the “the government will bring an amendment Bill… to strike a balance in regulating environment and development”.
Environmentalists said the amendment will only add to the Aravallis’ vulnerability in a state where the PLPA notification, which is valid for “20 to 30 years”, has not been renewed for the last four years. Gurgaon has over 16,000 acres notified under PLPA in 38 villages, of which 36 have expired and not been renewed. Faridabad, similarly, has over 10,000 acres of Aravalli forests in 17 villages, of which notifications for half have expired.
If amended, the Act will leave not just the forest area, but also 400 species of native trees, shrubs, and herbs, 200 native and migratory bird species, and wildlife such as leopards, hyenas, and civet cats who inhabit it, in the lurch.
Residents and students also met Minister of Forests Rao Narbir Singh last week, to express their concerns on the matter. The Minister had agreed to take up the matter with the CM and convey the concerns, they said.