Forest land in Aravalis being encroached in the name of religion

From ET Realty

GURGAON: The Aravalis, which is already under pressure from the real estate sector, is now up against increasing instances of encroachments in the name of religion.

Several encroachments made in the name of religion were spotted in the area between Manav Rachna International Educational University (MRIEU ) and Pali Chowki road, apart from the area from Mewla Maharajpur to Sidhartha Mandir road of the Faridabad section of the Aravalis.

Jitendra Bhadana, of Save Aravali, said, “The modus operandi of the encroachers is to first cut the trees and construct temples and mazhaars and then construct houses and other buildings in the vicinity.” He said many such structures were coming up in Gurgaon and Faridabad sides of the Aravalis.

Some days ago, encroachers felled more than 200 trees to clear about one acre of land in Pali village in Faridabad district and constructed a small temple on the spot.

Deputy commissioner T L Satyaprakash said PLPA land was under the forest department, which should take action against encroachment and flag it to him if any department did not cooperate. “There seems to be lack of coordination. I am going to call a meeting of forest, police and other departments concerned to discuss encroachment,” Satyaprakash said.

Highlighting the incidence of encroachments in the name of religious activities, Save Aravali has written a letter to the forest department along with pictures and locations. All the encroachments were done on the land protected under the PLPA, where non-forestry activities are prohibited according to an SC order.

“I have noticed some fresh encroachment in the protected forest land under sections 4 and 5 of PLPA Act 1990 on area from MRIEU to Pali Chowki road, and area from Mewla Maharajpur to Sidhartha Mandir road of Faridabad Aravali,” Bhadana said, adding that encroachers have made living quarters and shops in the vicinity of religious structures and they have rented out space to tea vendors and kirana stores which are actually provide safe havens for alcohol consumption on the sly.

“In Mewla Maharajpur, a local leader has built a full colony in the name of Hanuman Mandir,” Bhadana ponted out. He said these encroachments have been brought to the notice of the forest department. “These infrastructures need to be removed as early as possible as they are disturbing jungle life, breaking the law and encroaching on government land,” Bhadana said.

MD Sinha, conservator of forest (Gurgaon circle), said encroachment was one of the biggest problems but removing them is very difficult. “Until last year PLPA land was not declared as forest land, because of which large chunks of this land were encroached on or diverted,” Sinha said, adding that now the forest department was acting against encroachments. Recently the department had reclaimed some of the encroached land.

Environmentalist Amina Shervani said the trend was very disturbing.

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