‘Haryana govt misleading people on PLPA amendments’

Environmentalists reject claims that the law had adversely impacted livelihood of millions of residents

Updated - March 04, 2019 08:03 am IST

Published - March 04, 2019 01:34 am IST - GURUGRAM



Though there is little doubt about the disastrous long-term ramifications of the amendments affected in the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900 for the ecologically fragile Aravalis, the Haryana government has justified the need for the change in the law. They say that it had led to “unintended consequences adversely impacting the livelihood of millions of citizens”, a claim vehemently denied by the environmentalists as “incorrect” and “misleading”.

Tabling the controversial Bill in the Assembly on February 27, Haryana Forest and Wildlife Minister Rao Narbir Singh, in his statement, said that the primary objective behind the various orders and notifications issued under the PLPA was to regulate tree felling and not to bring this land under the purview of the forest or related laws.

He added the law, as amended in 1926, provided only for the temporary restrictions, regulations and prohibitions, but its various interpretations by the court over a period of time considering the areas under the PLPA as “forest” had made expiry of notifications under Section 4 and or 5, inconsequential thereby, “rendering extinguishment of the ownership right almost permanently”.

Claiming that about 10,94,543 hectares of land, which is around 25% of the total geographical area of the State, was under the purview of the law, the government sought to justify the amendment saying that lakhs of dwelling units, commercial buildings, industrial units, public buildings and massive public infrastructure and agriculture activities over this area of the State were affected.

“These orders and notifications [under Section 4 and or 5 of the PLPA] extend to the geographical area, wholly or partly, of 14 out of 22 districts in the State. Almost the entire districts of Gurugram, Rewari and Mahendergarh are covered under these orders and notifications,” said the Minister in his statement in the Haryana Assembly presenting the Bill, adding that the need to amend the law arose to allay and remedy the unintended consequences adversely impacting the livelihood of the millions of citizens.

To benefit builders

But the claims of the government that the law had impacted the millions of residents and the ownership rights of the large tracts of land have been strongly rejected by the environmentalists as “incorrect” and an attempt to “mislead” the people to benefit the builders and take the protection cover off the Aravalis, said to be the lungs of the NCR, to allow unbridled construction activity at the cost of the health and well-being of the masses.

“It is misleading to say that over 10 lakh hectare land and 14 out of 22 districts are affected by the law. The area covered under the special Section 4 and or 5 is just over 29,000 hectares in Haryana, including 6,000 hectares in Gurugram, in block forest areas. The rest of the area in the State is covered under general Section 4 orders seeking to regulate only felling of trees and agriculture and construction are not affected by it. In general Section 4 areas, there are no restrictions on cultivation or construction or on non-forest use. Also the PLPA applies to only nine and not 14 districts,” clarified forest analyst Chetan Agarwal.

Of the 30,000 hectare land under special Section 4 and or 5 of the PLPA, about 21,000 hectares in Aravallis are Gairmumkin Pahar areas where agriculture is not possible and which are still under forest cover.

Similarly, another 4,000 hectares is in the fragile hills of Shiwaliks and under forest cover.

Rejecting the claims of the government that lakhs of dwelling, commercial and industrial units were affected, the environmentalists argued that the almost entire 29,000 hectares area of Special Section 4 and or 5 were in the Aravali and Shiwalik hills and at the most, a few hundred encroachments were present.

“It is an exaggerated claim on the part of the government that lakhs of buildings and individuals are affected. It is only a few hundred houses in Kant Enclave and Haryana Sahari Vikas Pradhikaran in Faridabad and some farmhouses in Gurugram which will be impacted. But if the amendments are implemented it would open a Pandora’s box and the builders owning large tracts of land in the protected area would come up with residential and commercial ventures in the Aravalis,” said Mr. Agarwal.

Besides, the notifications under Special Section 4 and or 5 of the PLPA tend to regulate only the use of land and not affect its ownership.

A welcome move

Kant Enclave resident Brigadier (retd) M.B. Anand said the change in the law, to exclude areas covered by approved development plans and housing schemes, was part of attempt by the Haryana government to clear up the mess created by past mismanagement and was a welcome move.

He said that even as the Forest Department kept notifying large tracts of land under the PLPA, Haryana’s Department of Town and Country Planning approved the development of various residential colonies and institutional buildings in such areas, including public and private housing schemes.

Even Kant Enclave came up on the land earmarked for development and urbanisation in the Final Master Plan for the Faridabad-Ballabhgarh Region, published in the Haryana Gazette on December 17, 1991 upon approval by the National Capital Region Planning Board, he added.

“In other words, different departments of the government have acted at cross purposes in the past, resulting in an untenable situation at the present time,” said the former Army officer.

Mr. Anand said that if all construction activity in areas covered presently by the PLPA was deemed to be illegal, it would be a breach of trust on the part of Haryana government to evict people and destroy their houses after having registered their sale deeds, approved their building plans and collected house tax from them.

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