The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Wednesday ordered the Gurgaon authorities to get rid of concrete around trees within two months.
While Haryana of ficials wanted the case to be closed, the NGT refused to pass a final order till the authorities submit a compliance report. The green court will hear the case next on July 7.
Concretising areas around trees chokes its roots as it blocks air and water supply. After neighbouring Delhi woke up to act against the violation in 2014, the National Green Tribunal had passed a similar order for Gurgaon last month. According to the March order, a radius of at least 1.2m should be left around trees.
The order came after an NGO, Haryali, filed a petition in February at NGT against concrete sidewalks that cover the base of trees barks.
“Some space should be left vacant around trees. This area is called the protected root zone,” said Vivek Kamboj, founder of Haryali, who had filed the petition.
One can find such trees near government offices, including the district forest department. Other locations include roads near Sectors 31, 46 and 40, Udyog Vihar, Civil Lines and Rajiv Chowk.
“The authorities, in an RTI response last year, had told me that there is no concrete around trees in Gurgaon. But this is not true. After the NGT order, the concrete was removed at a few places by one foot, while the rule says 1.2m radius should be left vacant,” said JS Walia, Right to Information (RTI) activist in Gurgaon.
In 2000, the Central government had issued guidelines to de-choke trees. Seven years later, the Delhi High Court ordered the same to protect the Capital’s green cover.
Gurgaon has a tree cover of 8%, much less than the expected national average of 33%.
The Faridabad administration has initiated an inquiry in to how 440 acres in Mangar Bani was wrongly categorised as nonforest area in the revenue records.
Mangar Bani, a part of the Aravallis and a sacred grove in Faridabad, is the last virgin forest in Delhi-NCR, environmentalists said.
The deputy commissioner has asked the special duty officer to conduct a thorough enquiry into the discrepancies. “You are requested to fix responsibility of concerned official for such lapses so that necessary disciplinary action can be initiated. The enquiry report may be submitted within 15 days”, the DC’s letter read.
Gurgaon is in a similar situation. Former officials of the forest department said that Gurgaon’s forest cover may be 8%, according to the Forest Survey of India, but it is much less.
Analysis shows that over 50% of the forest area is under strip forest (trees planted along roads, rail, canal or bundhs, which cannot be treated as ‘forest’).
Actual compact or block forests, recorded under reserved, protected forests or Section 35 of the Indian Forest Act, are 620 hectares. This means, only 0.35% of Gurgaon’s total area is actual forests against the required 33%.
Meanwhile, the Haryana government has decided to record the Aravallis as ‘not forest’ in the ground truthing process. “The move will increase air pollution levels in NCR as it will allow tree felling,” said Sarvadaman Oberoi, environmentalist.
Total area of Gurgaon
forest cover in Gurgaon, according to the Forest Survey of India. Out of this, 4% is strip forest (trees along roads, rail, canal or bundhs, which are not ‘forest’) Out of the remaining 4%, 0.35% is under forest cover (protected and reserved forests, and areas under Section 35 of Indian Forest Act) Close to 4% forest cover is under PLPA However, Haryana has appealed to the SC to let the area under PLPA be removed of total area must be.
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