GURGAON: The blazing sun on Sunday morning could not sway the determination of about 100 residents of Delhi, Gurgaon and Faridabad who came out of their homes for an ‘Aravali Walk’ for the protection of an ecosystem critical to the sustenance of NCR.
They had two main demands – that the government must stop issuing change of land use licences to allow more real estate in the ecologically fragile Aravalis, and notify the entire range as a natural conservation zone (NCZ).
An exercise to demarcate NCZs is currently on, but of the 1,200 acres of Aravali foothills in Gurgaon, only 80 acres are expected to be incorporated in NCZ as the rest of the land is no longer classified under ‘forest’ because owners have obtained land use change permissions over the decades.
Participants of the 3km walk on Gurgaon-Faridabad Road also demanded national park or sanctuary status for Mangarbani, the sacred grove that environmentalists have waged a long battle for to be declared officially as a forest.
“Haryana has the second lowest forest cover in the country, most of it due to the Aravalis in south, and the Shivaliks in the north. Given the importance of the forest cover, the Aravalis must be protected at any cost,” said environmentalist Chetan Agarwal, who along with other environmentalists organised the walk.
Shruti Sharma, an IT professional who participated in the walk, said along with big buildings, the city also needs greenery. “Aravalis are part of NCR but unfortunately there isn’t enough effort from governments to protect the hills,” she said.
Environmentalist Colonel S S Oberoi (retd) said some positive steps were taken by the state government last year like identifying 677 acres of Mangarbani as a core area and nearly 1200 acres as its buffer. “But at the same time, there are gaps in the protection of the Aravalis that need to be addressed. This includes notifying the demarcation of Mangarbani and its buffer areas and include it in records,” he said.
Agarwal said the 100-metre buffer zone in Gurgaon proposed by the Haryana government for the Asola Bhatti sanctuary was an eyewash. “The eco-sensitive zone for the Asola Bhatti sanctuary must be stretched to include major lakes – Damdama, Badkhal, Dhauj – and also the mining pits that have exposed groundwater,” said Agarwal.
Credits ET Realty