‘Haryana Govt. creating a picture of alarm on scale of demolition on forest land’

Environmentalist refute claims on forest land

Environmentalist Lt. Col. (retd.) S.S. Oberoi has argued that the Haryana Government made a “deliberate mistake” in the calculation of forest area to ‘create a picture of alarm’ and justify the amendments to the Punjab Land Preservation Act, 1900.

He has countered the claims of the Government before the Supreme Court recently that its orders in Kant Enclave and Khori Village case would necessitate demolition in around 40% of the State.

Mr. Oberoi, in his affidavit filed earlier this month, said that 40% of the State was notified under Section 3 of the PLPA for enabling protection from erosion and for conservation of subsoil water and did not mean that it was a ‘forest area’. Accusing the State of major and deliberate misrepresentation, he said that there is no regulation, restriction or prohibition placed by mere identification of areas under Section 3. He also clarified that a general Section 4 notification in no way converted areas as forests and the department had never identified these areas as forests in their records.

“The recorded forest areas identified by Haryana are those closed by notification under Section 4 and 5 by special orders. For the State as a whole, 31,738 hectare is closed under this and being treated as forest by the State Forest Department. It is less than 1% and in fact a mere 0.72% of the total area of the State. This is a far cry from the almost 40% figure given in the additional affidavit of the Government,” said Mr. Oberoi, in his affidavit, filed through his counsel Amiy Shukla

‘Land scam’

The affidavit said the lands closed under Section 4/5 of the PLPA in Faridabad and Gurugram district were all common lands in the Aravalis with ownership historically recorded as shamlat lands in the revenue records. “However, these common lands in villages like Ankhir, Mewla Maharajpur, Anangpur, Mangar and Kot, in Faridabad have been dubiously privatised and partitioned in what is perhaps the biggest land scam in the history of the State of Haryana so far,” the affidavit read.

In an additional affidavit last month, the Haryana Government had said that in terms of the Kant Enclave Judgment in 2019 and an order passed on July 23, 2021 in Khori Village case by the Supreme Court, areas notified under Section 3, 4 and 5 of the PLPA were required to be considered as forest and accordingly about 39.35% of the geographical area of the State was forest and every structure constructed on it required to be demolished.

The environmentalists have been protesting against the PLPA Amendment Bill, 2019, which has also been signed by the Haryana Governor, as ‘death knell’ for forests expressing fears that 60,000 acre of PLPA protected Aravali forests and 10,000 acre of Shivalik forests near Chandigarh would be opened for real estate development if the law is enacted.

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