GURGAON: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday imposed a combined fine of Rs 1 lakh on real estate firms for felling trees in Mangar village in Faridabad district in 2014. The tribunal has also directed the companies to plant 10 times the number of trees cut and maintain the area for five years.
The tribunal passed the order on the petition filed by Col Sarvadaman Singh Oberai against the change of land use from ‘gair mumkin pahar’ (non-cultivable land) to agricultural land by changing ‘girdhawari’ (land records) of land in the village of Mangar in Faridabad district. The petition has also alleged that companies had cut trees while constructing an access road to connect their land with the main road.
According to the petitioner, the firms had filed 90 applications in 2014 with the Haryana revenue department to change land use of several patches of land in Mangarbani. “These applications were withdrawn by the firms on September 10, 2014, after an application was filed in the NGT on September 9, 2014,” said environmentalist Col. S S Oberai.
Highlighting the importance of challenging the change in land use, Oberai said that if the change had gone through, the hilly lands would have not been recorded as Aravali hills in the revenue records, and would then have been excluded from the natural conservation zone (NCZ) category in the sub-regional plan of Haryana-NCR which restricts construction.
Kenwood Mercantile and two other companies Good Faith and Nandak infracon own over 400 acres of land in Aravali hills, including a substantial portion of the Mangarbani sacred grove. “Allowing them to change the use of their land would have caused irreparable damage to Aravalis and Mangarbani,” Oberai said.
A representative of Kenwood Mercantile and its associate companies, Good Faith and Nandak infracon, said they respected the order of NGT and would do the needful. “We are not against the environment and we respect the direction of the tribunal,” he said.
Environmentalist Chetan Agrawal said the Mangarbani sacred grove has been the focal point of conservationists and the local communities which revere the grove.
Agrawal said that during the hearing of the case discrepancies were observed in the historical ‘girdhawari’ of the area and a process of correction was initiated on the direction of the tribunal by the revenue authorities in 2015.
“NGT also constituted a committee to undertake a baseline of the trees and forest cover in the area as requested by the petitioner to bring the facts regarding forest cover on record,” he said, adding that in its report, the committee found a high density of trees per hectare in the area, including a significant number of older trees of Anogeissus pendula species, which is a hardy species found on the steep Aravali hill slopes.