Gurgaon: A ‘flawed’ gift of Indian urbanization

by chitrkunwar

Gurgaon, one of Delhi’s luxurious satellite cities, is apparently synonymous to India’s urban awakening. But behind this veil of ‘pseudo-development’, is a city that may sink in its own sewage.
Even with all its skyscrapers, swanky malls and luxury apartments, Gurgaon is a perfect example of how a city shouldn’t be built. Activists and environment crusaders claimed that builders in Gurgaon have compromised with the basic aspects of construction that makes a city liveable.

A ride through the NH-8 may create an illusion of Gurgaon being the next Singapore of Asia, but the myth gets busted soon on closure scrutiny of facts. Apart from concrete structures, the city has nothing at all. It lacks in three fundamental aspects—availability of water, pollution-free air and sufficient green cover. On World Earth Day, Iamin attempts to explain its readers that what is wrong with Gurgaon.

Vanishing green cover
According to the data maintained by Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, Gurgaon has the largest forest area in NCR. The data states that almost 8 percentage of its total area is covered by forests. However, what is shocking is that Haryana government doesn’t count the Aravalli ranges as forest areas. Therefore, these ranges are being rapidly converted into concrete jungle. Voluntary organisations claimed that a deadly nexus of politician-bureaucrats and builders is taking a toll on the natural resources of Gurgaon.

To best exemplify this, it can be noted that 40 years back 38 villages in Gurgaon district— majority of which are located in the Aravalli ranges—were covered in Punjab Land and Preservation Act 1900. However, today only two villages of this 38 are under PLPA. Sources revealed that rest of these villages have been sold by the government to various builders in the name of expansion. An area of 6824.85 hectares used to come under Section 4 and 5 of PLPA. These sections protected the forest land from agricultural and urban exploitation.

On the contrary, the PLPA, the Forest preservation Act 1980 and the 7th May 1992 declaration by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF) clearly defines Aravalli as forest area. But the government has manipulated the loopholes in this law. It gave Change of Land Use (CLUs) certificate to different builders to construct buildings in the forest areas.

“After all this, the government doesn’t even call Aravalli a forest. The green cover of the city has been sacrificed at the altar of greed. Even the green patches left by government inside the city are nothing but land left for future expansion as per the master plan. Now places like Manger which is lone forest left in the Aravallis is under scanner of this nexus and if citizens don’t raise their voice, we will soon see this forest vanishing from Gurgaon,” said Vivek Kamboj of Haryali, an NGO working to increase green cover in the city.

Gurgaon: A concrete desert?
Water scenario is Gurgaon is no different than forest as the city’s water table is depleting at an alarming rate of 2-3 metres per year. With rains eluding the city, Gurgaon may soon turn into a concrete desert in the years to come. Experts believe that measures like rain water harvesting are meaningless unless they are done in an efficient way. Activists claim that government is keen to MAKE MONEY BY selling CLUs and is not bothered about the state of water table. In fact, the city doesn’t match demands of the present population and water from Yamuna water canal and NCR canal is quenching the thirst of Gurgaon people.

If estimates are to be believed near about 7000 cusec water goes down to Najafgarh drain every rainy season and even if Gurgaon manages to harvest half of the water during monsoon, its depleting water table would have a great breather. But tall claims of both state and builders are just hokum. In areas like Sukhrali and Nathupur located near the much-hyped Cyber City, the corporate sanctum sanctorum of Gurgaon, the water level has gown down to 175 to 200 feet.

According to rain harvesting master plan, both the authorities, Huda as well as MCG were supposed to make around 500 structures in Gurgaon, but till now around 200 structures are available in the city. And these too have not been made by keeping the right catchment area in mind.
Although Punjab and Haryana high court in 2012 had taken some steps to revive the water table and made it mandatory for everybody seeking approval of building plan to make rain harvesting structures. The court had also banned the excavation of water from ground for the construction purpose but the nest between builder and agencies didn’t allow court’s order to be firmly implemented.

Polluted air
Gurgaon fails miserably in the third aspect as well. The city air is hazardous to breathe in. Gurgaon’s ambient air quality is no better than Delhi, which has surpassed Beijing as world’s most polluted city.In name of checking the air quality, the Haryana Pollution control Board has just put a temporary machine at its centre near Mini Secretariat in Gurgaon from where it can’t even detect the polluted air as the area it has been placed in has a green cover. Gurgaon has around 50 lakh vehicles running on its roads. About four lakh vehicles get registered in Gurgaon in a year. These statistics clearly indicate the situation of Gurgaon’s air quality. Gurgaon is always short of power and in order to keep this eye candy city functional, diesel is used extensively in genset. Every commercial and residential buildin apartment in Gurgaon uses generator and on an average each of these generators remain functional for at least five hours a day during the power cut. Generators in malls and apartments guzzle great amount of diesel which further add to the pollution. Gurgaon has about 60 malls, 200 big and small residential apartments and around 300 commercial offices which have generators to cope up with the frequent power cuts.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 – 3:54pm IST | Maninder Dabas | Edited by: Soumika Das |

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