NEW DELHI

NGT fines three firms

Three firms have been fined a total of Rs.1 lakh for cutting trees in Mangar village, located off Gurgaon-Faridabad road.

Three firms have been fined a total of Rs.1 lakh for cutting trees in Mangar village, located off Gurgaon-Faridabad road.  

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has fined three real estate firms Rs.1 lakh for cutting trees in Mangar village, located off Gurgaon-Faridabad road. Kenwood Mercantile and two other firms own over 400 acres in the Aravalli hills, including a substantial portion of the Mangar Bani.

The Mangar Bani sacred grove has been the focal point of the local communities, which revere the grove and conservationists. The Mangar Draft Development Plan was put on hold by the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2012 till Mangar Bani and other areas were identified as ‘deemed forest’. In the recent months, the Haryana government initiated a process to demarcate the sacred grove and a buffer of 500 metres as no construction zone, a move widely welcomed by experts and citizens alike.

Kenwood Mercantile, Good Faith and Nandak Infracon have jointly been fined Rs.1 lakh for cutting about 45-50 trees while building a road in Mangar in 2014. They have also been asked to plant 10 times the number of trees cut and maintain the area for five years. The firms had filed applications before the local revenue authorities seeking to change the type of land from “Gair Mumkin Pahar” (which is Aravalli hills), to “agriculture” on the claim of undertaking wheat cultivation in the area. These applications were withdrawn by the firms on September 10, 2014, after an application was filed in the NGT by Lieutenant Colonel Sarvadaman Singh Oberoi on September 9, 2014.

“If the change had gone through, the hilly lands would have not been recorded as Aravalli hills in the revenue records and would have then been excluded from the natural conservation zone category in the sub-regional plan of Haryana-NCR, which restricts construction,” said an environmentalist.

“Subsequently, discrepancies were observed in the historical girdawari land records of the area and a process of correction was initiated by the revenue authorities in 2015. The 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 candid facts regarding forest cover on record. In its report, the committee found a high density of trees per hectare in the area, including a significant number of older trees.”

Activists are now awaiting the final notification of the Mangar Bani sacred grove and its 500 metre buffer as a no construction zone, and its final identification as a deemed forest. This area is within three km from the Asola Bhatti wildlife sanctuary and forms part of the contiguous Aravalli forest cover area on the Delhi-Haryana border.

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