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News: Gurugram: Several illegal structures in Raisina hills of Aravalis escape action despite SC order-05-08-2021


GURUGRAM: Construction activities are still going on in the protected Raisina hills of the Aravalis, despite orders from the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to remove illegal structures from forest areas.
A visit to the area on Wednesday revealed construction was underway at seven sites in Ansals Aravali Retreat, involving the clearing of land and building of boundary walls and farmhouses.
All these are prohibited under the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change’s Aravali Notification, 1992.

Moreover, at sites where the Municipal Council of Sohna razed illegal structures, it was observed that only minimal action was taken, with just about 5-10% of walls or buildings demolished by the civic agency. The area in question falls under ‘gair mumkin pahar’ (uncultivable hill) and is notified under Section 4 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), which prohibits tree felling without permission.

Under the Aravali Notification, ‘gair mumkin pahad’ is protected land where construction of buildings, roads, electrification and cutting of trees is not allowed without permission.

Residents of the area said construction has never stopped in the past 25 years. “Every year, 20 to 25 farmhouses are built here. When teams from the authorities come to demolish them, they break a bit and go away. It is still ‘safe’ to buy land here as long as one doesn’t carry out large-scale construction activity,” said Raj Deep, a resident.

Though notices have been issued to the farmhouse owners several times by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board and the Municipal Council of Sohna, illegal construction continues unabated in the area.

In June, the council had again served notices to around 450 farmhouses in Ansals Aravali Retreat for constructing farmhouses on ‘gair mumkin pahar’. The notices were issued as per an October 2018 NGT order.

When TOI asked deputy commissioner Yash Garg about the matter, he said: “A special team has been constituted to identify the illegal construction activities. We will investigate the matter and take necessary action as per the law.”

It is important to note that Gurugram district administration has decided to carry out a drone survey of the encroachments in PLPA areas across 33 revenue estates in Gurugram, which is around 6,800 hectares. Gurugram, however, also has a total of 11,375 hectares of land under ‘gair mumkin pahar’, and all these areas come under Aravali Notification. Most of the illegal construction in Gurugram is carried out in ‘gair mumkin pahar’ areas.

This means if the proposed survey is carried out in its present form, a large chunk of the Aravalis will be left out of it, environmentalists pointed out. “The survey should include the entire Aravalis, not just PLPA areas,” said Chetan Agarwal, a forest analyst.

“It is surprising that the construction of buildings is underway in the area even after show-cause notices and demolition drives by the municipal council,” said SS Oberoi, an environmentalist.

Meanwhile, a group of owners in Ansals Aravali Retreat had on July 15 written a letter to chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar alleging they are victims of “selective targeting and demolition” by the authorities.

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