Faridabad administration moves to save sacred grove

Forest department directed to prepare a case for conserving Mangar Bani on Delhi outskirts and halting march of real estate

By Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava
Published: Thursday 15 December 2011

The district administration of Faridabad wants the Haryana government to save the ecologically sensitive Aravalli hills near Mangar village on the outskirts of Delhi by changing its plan to usher in real estate development in the area. The Mangar village has one of the last patches of the Aravalli forests that has native tree species. The patch has been protected by the village residents for centuries as a sacred grove called Mangar Bani.


In July this year, the Haryana government drafted the Mangar Development Plan 2031 to develop 10,484 ha around 23 villages in the Aravallis in Faridabad, including Mangar village. The plan proposes  development activities, including construction of residential colonies, farmhouses, communication towers, hotels, railway station and airport. Even lime and brick kilns, and stone quarrying and crushing are sought to be allowed. Down To Earth has reported how this development plan posed a threat to the Bani and the ecology of the Aravalli hills. The area is an important ground water reacharge zone for Gurgaon, Delhi and Faridabad and also serves as a wildlife corridor between Delhi and the Aravallis in Rajasthan.

Nature conservation zone proposed

Following the publication of the report, a district-level committee headed by the deputy commissioner of Faridabad, Rakesh Gupta, visited Mangar on December 2. The committee concluded that all the natural vegetation and Aravalli hills, including the Bani, should be prohibited for non-forestry
activities in the Mangar plan 2031 and that the area be delineated and designated as a nature conservation and groundwater recharge zone.

Gupta directed the forest department to prepare a case for notifying all the Aravalli hills and forest-like areas covered in the development plan under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA) of 1900 so that the area can be taken out of the development plan. The Mangar development plan says no construction shall be permitted on land falling under PLPA. The entire Aravallis comes under the Supreme court definition of deemed forest and needs to be conserved. However, the deemed forests in Haryana have not been notified yet and very little of that land is under PLPA.

The forest department also suggested that the area has the potential to be a major wildlife tourism zone for the NCR and options for preserving the area as a conservation reserve, sanctuary or national park may also
be explored. It said the money for paying compensation to the owners of the privatised lands can be provided from the Compensatory Afforestation and Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) or other sources.
State government to take final call

The recommendations of the committee has been sent to the Town and Country Planning department’s headquarter in Chandigarh. The Mangar development plan has already been approved in-principle by the state government. However, the department had called another meeting with the district officials before finalising the plan. The recommendations of the committee that conducted the site visit will be discussed in the meeting.

Chetan Agrawal, a researcher who has studied the ecological benefits of Mangar Bani and the surrounding Aravalli hills, said the district officials have shown foresight in deciding to protect the ground water recharge zone for Delhi and NCR. “Now, it's the time for the state government to understand that there is enough land in the plains for real estate development. Why sacrifice ecologically sensitive Aravallis for that?” he asked. 




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