GURGAON: Trees on protected Aravali land have been felled in the picturesque Raisina hills, which has over decades been steadily colonised by farmhouses, to clear the area for construction of yet more. Stones to be used for construction have been brought in and iron gates have been installed on some of the plots.The region in Sohna is designated ‘gair mumkin pahar’ (uncultivable hill), which is notified under Section 4 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) that prohibits chopping of trees without permission.The Union environment ministry’s Aravali Notification of 1992 also grants protection to ‘gair mumkin pahar’ as an area where construction of buildings, roads and any other infrastructure is not allowed without prior approval.500 farmhouses built illegally on Aravali land in Ggn: 2022 survey A visit to the area this weekend showed new pathways have been laid for access to the new farmhouses that are likely to be built there. These paths have been carved out in the last couple of months, according to locals. “We have been seeing trucks filled with rocks coming up to the hills and trees being chopped. People are gradually destroying this forest land,” said Girhari Singh, a resident of Sohna village.Asked about the recent constructions, a forest department official said an inquiry is on. “A team was sent to the area to check and file a damage report for felling of trees in the Aravalis,” said Rajeev Tajyan, divisional forest officer, Gurgaon.
Raisina hills have seen illegal construction despite multiple rulings by the National Green Tribunal as well. TOI had reported this August that a dozen trees had been cut to widen the paths to farmhouses and land had been levelled at fenced-off plots.In December last year, the NGT had directed the Haryana and Rajasthan governments to set up a monitoring committee that will regularly review progress made in removing encroachments and illegal construction from the protected Aravali land in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Nuh and Alwar.Before that, in 2018, NGT had ordered that all of the protected Aravali land in Gurgaon and Faridabad should be restored. Though the Gurgaon administration had sent show-cause notices to property owners in 2020, the area under Aravali Notification is yet to be restored as a forest.According to a forest department survey in 2022, at least 500 farmhouses have been built illegally on Aravali land in the city, most of them concentrated in Gwalpahari, Abheypur, Gairatpur Bas, Sohna, Raisina and Manesar. The Aravalis present a conservation challenge like no other because most of the hills are privately owned, making the revenue department the custodian of the land. “The municipal council of Sohna demolished 80 structures out of 424 structures in the area falling under its jurisdiction. There has been a stay order in 165 farmhouses. Further, prior notices have been served to carry out demolition on December 12…” the department’s report to NGT had said.Environmentalists said rules were being flouted openly in Raisina hills despite the PLPA and Aravali Notification being in force. “The administration has failed to prevent new construction or even remove the existing ones,” said Col (retd) SS Oberoi, an activist.