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2012.03.25 citizens letter to dg forests mo ef
 

2012.03.25 citizens letter to dg forests mo ef

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    2012.03.25 citizens letter to dg forests mo ef 2012.03.25 citizens letter to dg forests mo ef Document Transcript

    • To Shri PJ Dilip Kumar, Chairman, Forest Advisory Committee Director General Forests and Special Secretary Ministry of Environment and Forests Government of India 25.03.2012 Dear Sir Subject: Protection of Faridabad Aravallis deemed forests including Mangar Bani Sacred Grove from real estate pressures including agricultural zoning in the Mangar DDP 2031. We, the undersigned, residents of southern Haryana and Delhi, are deeply concerned about the future of Gurgaon, Faridabad and Delhi, whose groundwater and forest ecological security is critically dependent on the Aravalli hill ranges of southern Haryana, which are already devastated by past mining. We are dismayed, that, instead of identifying and protecting the last remaining patches of natural forests and wilderness which are also critical groundwater recharge zones as identified by Central Ground Water Board, as a forest zone, or sanctuaries or national parks, the state government of Haryana is directing the use of deemed forest lands for non-forest purposes by including 1000s of hectares of Faridabad Aravalli forests as an agricultural zone which allows Mega recreational projects and other uses under a new master plan – Mangar DDP 2031, in prima facie direct violation of section 2(ii) of the Forest Conservation Act (FCA). We request the MoEF to take a pro-active view on the situation as per existing laws and judgements, including section 3(i) or 3(ii) of the FCA, section 3(1) and 3(2) (v) of the EPA, 1986, as well as the precautionary principle and inter-generational equity and take appropriate action, such has been done in the past by issuing the Aravalli Notification in 1992. The (I) regulatory context, (II) socio-ecological importance, (III) issues and concerns, (IV) local steps taken, and the (V) urgency, are as follows. Our requests for action are at (VI), for your consideration. Page 1 of 12
    • I Regulatory context of the Aravalli hills deemed forest 1. The Aravalli hills in southern Haryana are mostly classified as ‘gair mumkin pahar’ in local revenue records (plus a few other categories as mentioned in MoEF’s Aravalli Notification of 1992). The gair mumkin part refers to its unsuitability for agriculture. 2. The hills are a deemed forest a. The forest vegetation in these hills is mostly of the dry deciduous and thorny scrub type and mostly comprises of slow growing xeric species that are adapted to low rainfall and long dry spells. The condition ranges from degraded and denuded to open and moderately dense and even pristine in patches (e.g. the Mangar Bani Sacred grove). It mostly comprises of trees and vegetation of natural origin which easily meet the definition of “dictionary meaning of forest”. Many areas were devastated by mining and the influx of labour camps and most of these are regenerating after the mining bans in the last decade. b. The entire Aravalli hills are prima facie deemed forest in light of the Godavarman (12.12.1996) and Lafarge (6.7.2011) judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The latter directs states to, “identify the areas which are "forests" irrespective of whether they are so notified, recognized or classified under any law, and irrespective of the land of such "forest" and the areas which were earlier "forests" but stand degraded, denuded and cleared” (Part II (xii)). c. Hence any non-forest activity in this deemed forest area requires prior clearance from MoEF under the Forest Conservation Act. 3. Process for streamlining identification of forests and forest and environmental clearances outlined. Part II of the Lafarge Judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 6th July 2011 provides for: a. following of National Forest Policy while deciding on forest clearances (Part II(i)), b. for site inspection in case of doubt of status of land being non-forest (II (iii)), c. for setting up of a Standing Site inspection Committee (Part II (iv)), d. setting up of a GIS based decision support system (II(vii)), e. completing identification of deemed forests pending since 1996 (II(xii)) f. incorporating safeguards in the Environment Clearance process (II(xiii)) g. and, for MoEF to prepare a comprehensive policy and procedure for forest clearance and identification of forests (II(xv). The order clearly states that, “These guidelines are required to be given so that fait accompli situations do not recur. … These guidelines will operate in all future cases of environmental and forest clearances till a regulatory mechanism is put in place”. The Aravalli hill deemed forests of Faridabad and Southern Haryana are a fit and worthy case to apply these directions. Page 2 of 12
    • 4. The MoEF itself has wide ranging powers to restrict activities under the Environment Protection Act, 1996 (specifically, Section 3(1) and 3(2) (v) of the EPA, 1986 and rule 5 (3)(d) of the Environment (Protection) Rules, 1986). These powers were exercised to issue the Aravalli Notification, on May 7 1992, which restricted industry, mining, construction, roads and electrification in the Aravalli hills of Gurgaon district of Haryana (and of Alwar district, Rajasthan). This notification has helped control rampant colonization in the Gurgaon Aravallis. However the Aravalli hills of Faridabad district of Haryana were left out for some unknown reason from the ambit of the notification, and should be included urgently. 5. Deemed Forest not yet identified since 12.12.1996. Despite the judgement of 12.12.1996 (Godavarman) asking states to identify their deemed forests, again reiterated on 6.7.2011 (Lafarge), followed by a letter from the Secretary, MoEF (September 2011) asking Haryana’s Chief Secretary to implement the Lafarge judgement, the Haryana state government has not yet identified its deemed forests. Instead it is preparing real estate oriented zoning plans for the Aravalli hills of Faridabad which are deemed forests. 6. Pumping of Groundwater banned in 2002. Recognizing the importance of the area to Delhi’s groundwater, on an IA filed by the Ridge Management Board, Delhi, the Hon’ble Supreme Court ordered a “ban on mining activity and pumping of groundwater imposed in an area upto 5 km from Delhi-Haryana border on the Haryana side of ridge and Aravalli hills.” (order dated 6.5.2002 in WPC 4677 of 1985). The implication of this order is that no exploitation of groundwater and digging of borewells can be permitted in the 5 km zone from the Delhi border and falling in Haryana Aravalli hills. 7. Subquently, in 2004, the Hon’ble Supreme Court said that, “Aravalli hills must be protected at any cost”, and that, “The natural sources of air, water and soil cannot be utilized if the utilization results in irreversible damage to environments.” (Order dated May 2004 in WPC 4677 of 1985) 8. The Aravalli hills are the subject matter of several other judgements of the Hon’ble Supreme Court that have restricted or banned construction, mining activities, pumping of groundwater, to protect groundwater, lake catchments, and the environment and ecology. i. Order dated 11/10/1996 in WPC 4677 of 1985: 1. “We have no hesitation in holding that in order to protect the two lakes from environmental degradation it is necessary to limit the construction activity in the close vicinity of the lakes.” Page 3 of 12
    • 2. “All development schemes, and the plans for all types of constructions relating to all types of buildings in the area from one km. to 5 km radius of the Badhkal lake and Surajkund (excluding Delhi areas) shall have prior approval of the Central Pollution Control Board and the Haryana Pollution Control Board.” ii. Order dated 14.05.2008 in WPC 4677 of 1985 1. “it is noted that ground water table is already at critical stage in Faridabad”. iii. Order dated 8.05.2009 in WPC 202 of 1995 and WPC 4677 of 1985 while banning mining pending rehabilitation, states that “today environment and ecology which are national assets and which are governed by inter-generational equities stand devastated” 9. Part II(i) of the Lafarge judgement (July 2011) directs that the National Forest Policy should guide forest clearances (Part II(i)). The National Forest Policy provisions, to provide ecological stability, protect natural heritage, and check soil erosion in catchments of lakes (Objective 2.1), to severely restrict schemes that interfere with forests of catchments & steep slopes (4.1), to provide proper safeguards for providing sustained benefits to the entire community (4.4.1), and for wildlife corridors (4.5), amongst others, suggest that the Aravallis should receive strong protection. 10. MoEF is apparently reviewing rehabilitation plans for the mining ravaged areas of Faridabad district with a view to ensure credible long term rehabilitation and restoration of these areas. 11. The new Green India Mission also proposes protecting and restoring forests for their ecosystem services to adapt to and mitigate climate change. 12. Further, the Aravalli hills are zoned as a natural conservation area in the Regional Plan 2021 prepared by the NCR Planning Board, which all NCR states are mandated to follow under the NCR Planning Board Act of 1985. II Socio-Ecological Importance of Faridabad Aravallis (including Mangar Sacred Grove) The ecological importance of the Aravallis is summarized below. Given this importance, the area urgently deserves protection for the long term groundwater and forest ecological security of Faridabad, Delhi, and Gurgaon. 1. The Faridabad Aravallis (including Mangar Bani forest patch) are an important wilderness and wildlife habitat adjoining Delhi, and, contiguous with the Asola Bhatti Sanctuaries in the Delhi ridge, thus forming a natural buffer to them. Page 4 of 12
    • 2. Due to their geographic location, the Faridabad Aravallis are a critical link in the Aravalli forest and wildlife corridor between Delhi (esp. Asola Bhatti sanctuary) and Gurgaon-Mewat-Alwar Aravalli hills extending to Sariska National Park and form a large and still relatively unfragmented habitat. A leopard reported from Asola Bhatti sanctuary, is likely to have reached via the Faridabad aravallis. Times of India 3.3.2012 – Bhatti Mines spring to life 3. The forested Aravallis are recognized as a barrier against desertification of the Delhi NCR region. 4. They also provide micro-climatic benefits – reducing dust and temperatures, and possibly increasing convectional rainfall thus helping adapt to climate change. 5. The Faridabad Aravallis include regions such as the Mangar Bani sacred grove. Just outside Delhi, the Mangar Bani sacred grove is a micro-habitat of high conservation value and scientific interest. It contains a unique assemblage of northern Aravalli plants that has been conserved by local village communities as a protected, sacred grove. In the entire area of the NCR, this is the last surviving (relict) undisturbed patch of Anogeissus pendula forest which has a limited range and distribution and also possibly includes hundreds of other species of flora. This could attract provisions for ‘entities of incomparable value’ and is certainly worthy of special protection. Times of India 24 Jan 2012, Mega tourism nod pushes sacred woods to the brink 6. The Aravalli hills are also critically important for groundwater recharge and water security and include the catchments of several lakes. i. Due to groundwater flow in all directions (see map), this area has been identified as a recharge zone for groundwater for Delhi, Faridabad and Gurgaon by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB). “The hard rock formations comprising of hills form recharge zone for the downstream areas (pg 18)” (CGWB, 2008). ii. It is therefore critical for the water security of Faridabad which is almost 100% dependent on groundwater for drinking and domestic supply. iii. Groundwater recharge is to the tune of 20,00,000 litres per hectare per year (1/3 of rainfall of 600 mm) which is worth approximately Rs 2 lakh per year (@ of Rs 0.10/litre) and has a Net Present Value of Rs 24.9 Lakhs (5%, 20 years – same as NPV calculations for CAMPA) and a higher NPV upto Rs 1.5 crores per hectare (Rs 2 lakhs/ha/year x 100 years (4 generations) at 0.1% discounting ( on the lines adopted by Stern Review – privileging inter-generational equity) (Agarwal C, 2011). Page 5 of 12
    • Figure 1. Water Table Elevation in the Mining Areas of Delhi & Faridabad (Source: Central Ground Water Board, 2008. Hydrological investigations in mining areas of Delhi and Faridabad, Chandigarh: Government of India.) Page 6 of 12
    • iv. v. III It includes the catchments of several lakes - including Badhkal lake, Surajkund lake, Peacock Lake, Dhauj lake (which falls within the Mangar DDP 2031), which are critical for recharge of groundwater for drinking water supply downstream of city and village areas. All these lakes have turned seasonal in the last decade. The region also contains sites of archeological importance. (Hindustan Times 6.2.2012 – Hold Fast to the Past by Nayanjot Lahiri). Issues, concerns and prima facie violations 1. A State Level Committee has approved the Mangar Draft Development Plan (DDP) 2031, with amendments, on or around 12 January 2012. The Town and Country Planning Department of Haryana has been directed to publish the DDP in the official Gazette for public comment. The zoning plan permits certain kinds of real estate development in Aravalli hill areas in Faridabad district, including the area of Mangar Bani. The draft proposal: a. Does not identify the Aravalli hills as a separate zoning category b. does not zone the whole of the Aravallis as a forest zone, in conformity with the deemed forest status of the entire Aravallis c. does not mention the Mangar bani sacred grove or provide it any zoning protection. d. includes the Aravalli hills in an ‘agricultural zone’ which permits certain kinds of real estate and other development, including mega recreational zones, which is in direct conflict with its deemed forest status Page 7 of 12
    • e. proposes to ungrade and construct new 4 lane roads in the Aravalli hills that will further fragment habitat and restrict movement of wildlife in an important Aravalli forest corridor. f. Does not identify or provide any zoning protection to the catchment of Dhauj Lake, which falls within the Mangar DDP 2031 area and has turned seasonal in the last decade. 2. The Town and Country Planning Department has not sought FCA clearance for zoning deemed forest areas for non-forest purpose and therefore prima facie violates section 2 (ii) of the FCA, and further orders of the Hon’ Supreme Court (Godavarman (12.12.96, and Lafarge(6.7.2011). 3. The State Level Committee “after detailed deliberations”, has, “approved the Mangar DDP 2031 AD subject to the above amendments.” As deemed forest land has not yet been identified, and is instead being zoned for non-forest purpose, this approval, amounts to an order directing, “that any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose”(section 2(ii) of the FCA), and is therefore prima facie, a violation of section 2(ii) of the FCA. 4. Most of the uses allowed in the master plan are non-site specific activities, which can easily be allowed outside the aravallis. 5. Forest conservation and groundwater recharge considerations may have been ignored in decision making. The Forest Department of Haryana State was reportedly not consulted in preparing the initial draft of the Mangar DDP 2031, and was apparently not invited to the meeting to clear it at the State level. Neither apparently was the Hydrology department or the Central Groundwater Board, which has a regional office in Chandigarh itself. This points to a broader systemic flaw in decision making wherein groundwater recharge and forest and wildlife ecosystem service concerns are not represented in decision-making regarding masterplans, which, by deciding zoning, have enormous influence on landuse decisions and landuse outcomes and protection or not of the ecological assets of the area. IV Local steps taken 1. The Deputy Commissioner, Faridabad had organized a field visit to the Aravallis and has subsequently written to Town & Country Planning and Forest Departments , a. highlighting the deemed forest nature of the Aravallis b. drawing attention to Mangar Bani sacred grove c. proposing to protect the entire Aravalli hills under section 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), thereby restricting landuse change Page 8 of 12
    • d. and suggesting zoning the Aravallis for water recharge zone and forest conservation in the Mangar DDP 2031 “in which no fencing, groundwater exploitation and construction activity is permitted.” (letter and minutes of field visit are attached). None of these suggestions have apparently been accepted at the time of writing 2. District administration decision to cover all remaining Aravalli hills under section 4 & 5 of the Punjab Forest Preservation Act (PLPA), on hold. Mangar PLPA proposal pending with the state govt. Based on the decisions recorded in the field visit minutes on 2.12.2011 (attached as above), and a meeting on 6.12.2011, the state forest department has moved a case to the state government of Haryana to notify under section 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), the remaining gair mumkin pahar areas (Aravalli hills) of Mangar village in the first instance, (about 2/3 of the hills, only about 1/3 were notified before) and thus provide them additional protection. However the state Government has not taken a decision to notify the same. 3. District Town Planner’s letter to increase forest zoning from 1800 to 3800 ha (approx.) ignored. The District Town Planner, Faridabad, had written to his superiors in Chandigarh in December 2012, to increase the area zoned as forest in the Mangar DDP 2031 proposal from approximately 1800 ha to about 3800 ha, but this too was not apparently accepted. 6. The residents of Mangar village of Faridabad district and the neighbouring Bandhwari village (Gurgaon district) had also written to district officials to protect the Mangar Bani and a buffer area of about 400-500 ha. There has not been any response reported for the same. V Urgency 1. That despite this extensive official correspondence, media reporting, and civil society feedback, the state government still seems to be moving ahead with its plan to allow real estate activity through the Mangar DDP 2031, with an emphasis on large MEGA RECREATIONAL projects. 2. That there is increasing felling of trees and fencing of land in the Aravalli hills in the Mangar region, which is fragmenting the deemed forest areas and this has accelerated with news of the proposed master plan. 3. That even though mining is currently banned, there are reports of illegal mining. Page 9 of 12
    • 4. That a fait accompli situation is fast arising in the Faridabad Aravallis and may spread to the whole of the Southern Haryana Aravallis. 5. That huge damage and harm has already been caused and irrepairable harm is on the anvil, to the drinking water security and other ecological concerns of citizens of Delhi, Faridabad and Gurgaon, both urban and rural, both current and especially future generations, and accordingly, to their right to a clean environment and therefore to their Right to Life, if the real estate interests in Faridabad Aravallis and especially fuelled by the Mangar DDP 2031 are not restrained. VI Actions required to protect the Faridabad and Southern Haryana Aravallis The MoEF is requested to kindly take urgent steps to protect the Faridabad Aravallis, especially the area falling in the Mangar DDP 2031, and if required the whole of Southern Haryana, as it deems appropriate, including the following: 1. Extend Aravalli Notification (May 1992) to cover Faridabad district Aravallis. This notification has helped control rampant colonization in the Gurgaon Aravallis. However the Aravalli hills of Faridabad district of Haryana were left out for some unknown reason from the ambit of the notification, and should be included urgently. 2. Constitute a fact finding /supervision committee Given the powers under the EPA, the FCA, the directions in Part II of the Lafarge Judgment (as mentioned earlier) and the urgency of the situation, the MoEF is requested to constitute a fact finding committee to review the situation in the Faridabad aravallis and covering southern Haryana Aravallis that can: i. clearly establish the deemed forest nature of the entire southern Haryana Aravalli hills using FSI maps, and other reports and field visits. ii. Assess the wildlife habitat importance and wildlife corridor potential of the area, its role in groundwater recharge and drinking water security, and in meeting local subsistence needs. iii. Suggest options for permanent tenurial protection to the Aravalli hills of southern Haryana under the Wildlife Act, Forest Conservation Act, Indian Forest Act, Environment Protection Act etc. iv. Suggest special protection options for the Mangar Bani Sacred Grove and a suitably determined buffer region. v. Review and strengthen the Aravalli Notification 1992 vi. Identify all stakeholders in the Aravallis and their interests in order to balance them. Page 10 of 12
    • vii. Ascertain how the Aravalli commonlands were privatized and who owns them, in order to understand the nature of private and real estate interests in the Aravalli hills that must be dealt with to facilitate long term environmental protection of the area. viii. Propose modifications to the master plans in the Aravalli, especially the Mangar DDP 2031 to provide zoning protection for groundwater recharge, surface water body protection, and forest and open space protection. 3. Direct Government of Haryana to first identify its deemed forests before notification of the Mangar DDP 2031 for public comment. 4. Direct the Department of Town and Country Planning, Government of Haryana to seek Forest Clearance of the Mangar Draft Development Plan 2031, under the Forest Conservation Act. 5. Direct the Department of Town and Country Planning, Government of Haryana to seek Environmental Clearance of the Mangar Draft Development Plan 2031, under the Enviroment Protection Act. 6. Put on hold the notification of the Mangar Draft Development Plan 2031 for public comment, till the deemed forests of Aravallis are identified and Forest and Environmental Clearance taken and till environmental protection modifications are considered. 7. Provide special protection to the Mangar Bani Sacred Grove and its buffer region of 400-500 ha or a suitably determined area (as mentioned in letter from residents). 8. Incorporate these protections in the Mining restoration and rehabilitations plans in Faridabad district aravallis currently under review. CC: A.K. Bansal, DGF Ashish Kumar Srivastava, IGF Amita Baviskar Ullas Karanth Mahesh Rangarajan Harish Chaudhary AIGF Shiv Pal Singh AIGF <bansal.ak@nic.in>, <aksmoef@gmail.com>, <amita.baviskar@gmail.com>, <ukaranth@gmail.com>, <nmmldirector@gmail.com>, <harishcc@yahoo.com>, <shiv101@yahoo.com List of Annexures 1. Forbes India Article on Elinor Ostrom Nobel Laureate 2009 and Mangar sacred grove http://forbesindia.com/article/special/elinor-ostrom-on-managing-common-property/32350/1 2. DC Letter dated 12 Dec 2011 Page 11 of 12
    • 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Minutes of field visit dated 2nd Dec 2011 Letter from Mangar Village Minutes of State Level Committee Meeting (12.01.2012) which approved Mangar DDP 2031. 6 Note on Mangar Bani Conservation by Pradip Krishen - Author -Trees of Delhi Various Media articles from Times of India, HT, and Down to Earth. Sincerely, Sarvadaman Oberoi, Gurgaon Rtd. Col. and Treasurer, Mission Gurgaon Development. Chetan Agarwal, Gurgaon Forest Researcher Pradip Krishen, Delhi Author of Trees of Delhi Ghazala Shahabuddin, Delhi Associate Professor, School of Human Ecology, Ambedkar University, Delhi Page 12 of 12