Haryana denotifies 85 acres of Aravali forest land

NEW DELHI: In a controversial move, the Haryana forest department has proposed to issue a “corrigendum” to de-notify 85 acres of forest land in the Aravalis in Gurugram where a ‘Nature Education and Cure Centre’ will be set up in public-private partnership mode.

The land, along with another 500 acres, was repossessed by Haryana government in 2001 from Bharat Yatra Kendra, which included the “farm house” of former PM Chandrasekhar, after his demise. The possession was transferred following a Supreme Court order. While 500 acres went back to the forest department, 85 acres, with nearly 20 structures, was restored to the gram panchayat.

The gram panchayat gave the 85 acres to the forest department to manage it, under section 38 of Forest Conservation Act. The entire 585 acres was notified as forest in 2004. The forest department later gave the land to Haryana Forest Development Corporation.

Last week, additional chief secretary (forest) R R Jowel suggested the de-notification, claiming the land in Bhondsi was “wrongly” notified as forest 12 years ago. TOI has accessed minutes of the meeting that say managing director of Haryana Forest Development Corporation (HFDC) G K Ahuja “informed members that the proposal has been approved by Hon’ble Chief Minister’s office”. This submission has stumped many in the government, since CM Manohar Lal Khattar had taken a bold step to save Mangar, an endangered piece of forest land, by formally designating it as a forest area.

The CM’s principal secretary, Rajesh Khullar, told media that the CMO’s approval was only for inviting expression of interest to establish the centre. “We are not in talks with any private player for developing this centre. It will be done through a transparent bidding process,” he said. Asked why the government woke up to a “wrongly” notified area after 12 years, Khullar avoided a direct response.

“Issuing corrigendum is an afterthought or a bureaucratic ploy to mislead political bosses to de-notify any forest land. This will open the floodgates for misuse, as both government agencies and private players are eyeing Aravalis for commercial exploitation,” said R P Balwan, former conservator of forests.
He added there were efforts to use protected forest in Shivalik hill in the state for raising medicinal plants.”Under FCA, you cannot denotify a forest area and these cannot be used for commercial purpose. How can HFDC, which is only caretaker on behalf of forest department, moot a proposal to roll out a PPP project, which is nothing more than providing an entry to private players in forest area?” Balwan said.

Credits ET Realty

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