2013.11.19 ncrpb grapples with objections to revision of regional plan 2021 the hindu
NCRPB grapples with objections to revision of Regional Plan 2021 - The Hindu
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Published: November 19, 2013 00:00 IST | Updated: November 19, 2013 05:37 IST
NCRPB grapples with objections to revision of Regional Plan 2021
Chander Suta Dogra
There is an overwhelming sense of dismay among environmentalists and urban planners
As the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) reaches the final stage of an ambitious mid course revision
of its Regional Plan - 2021 (RP-21), in force since 2005, it is grappling with more than 400 objections from the
general public, State and Central government departments, vigorously opposing among other things the dilution of
many environmental safeguards built into the previous plan.
There is an overwhelming sense of dismay among environmentalists and urban planners that instead of strengthening
the existing structures for better development of the NCR, the revision is being used to open up so far protected
environmentally sensitive areas to urbanisation and regularising the existing violations of the current plan.
The process to revise the RP -21 for NCR began last year, following which the NCRPB, headed by the minister for
Urban Development and chief ministers of Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, approved a revised draft
plan in July. The revised plan was put up for public comment in August, and two planning committee meetings have
been held since then to “evolve a consensus” on the objections. The RP -21 is meant to provide sustainable
development in the three NCR states of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and the capital Delhi and prevent
haphazard development in the region.
Details are now coming out from documents procured through RTI by activists, that show how Haryana in particular,
through its Town and Country Planning department introduced several “dilutions” in key environmental safeguards –
holding up its projects in Gurgaon and Faridabad ) at a meeting of the NCR planning committee in June.
The most important of these is removal of 0.5% restriction on construction in the Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ),
which in effect meant only half an acre can be built in a 100 acre piece of land. In the approved draft plan this
restriction has been completely removed and there is no limit on construction in the Aravallis.
The NCZ includes the Aravalli hills, major rivers, land around lakes, water bodies and sanctuaries. These eco-sensitive
areas are critical in maintaining ground water recharge capacity, reducing air pollutants and for the long term
regional environment security of the NCR that will eventually impact its carrying capacity.
But Haryana has envisaged a mega tourism and entertainment zone in some areas that fall in the Natural
Conservation Zone (NCZ), and realtors have already bought up huge land chunks here.
Says Prof AK Maitra, former director of the School of Planning and Architecture, who headed the study group on
environment “ I think this is a sure way to destroy the Aravallis which is not only a pristine natural resource and
natural barrier between arid Rajasthan and Delhi but an important ground water recharge zone. We were never
consulted on these relaxations because our study group was abandoned midway after NCRPB stopped our meetings.”
Further, land suitability analysis (essential for balancing utilisation of land for development and conservation) which
was mandatory for all master plans in the NCR, is now proposed to be restricted only to “new towns”. “ The
implications of these relaxations in the draft RP-2021 are, that distorted planning that envisages construction in low
lying or riverine areas and hilly Aravalli forests in the existing towns as well as new extensions of these towns (seen as
deviations by the NCRPB) will be regularised,” says Lt Col SS Oberoi of Mission Gurgaon Development.
Alarm bells are also ringing at how the 10% target for forest cover has been replaced with‘green areas’ which opens up
the option of using golf courses, roadside greens belts to meet the target for increasing forest cover. Activists fear that
dropping‘forest’ and calling it ‘green areas’ instead will take these areas out of the provisions of the Forest
Conservation Act and a step closer to change of land use for colonization. Against the national average of 21.05%,
forest cover in the NCR Delhi is 11.9% while Haryana has only 3.5%.
The revised draft RP has also done away with the requirement to get the master plans of urban townships approved
from the NCRPB. It has instead been replaced by the line “The respective state governments will carry out
development as per Plans.”