‘More measures needed to shield Aravalis’

by chitrkunwar

GURGAON: City-based environmentalists are upbeat with Tuesday’s decision by the National Capital Region Planning Board (NCRPB) to keep a 500 m buffer zone around the Manger forest, located along the Gurgaon-Faridabad road.

With the previous Congress-run state government having lobbied for reduction of the buffer zone around Mangar bani from 500 m to 60 m, environment activists had nurtured higher expectations about environmental protection from the new government.

Colonel (retired) S S Oberoi, a city-based environment activist and legal expert, said, “The decision was taken along expected lines. We didn’t expect the board to go back on its earlier decision. The larger issue, of a natural conservation zone (NCZ), is still pending. Ground truthing should be carried out again to map all the naturally occurring conservation zones in Faridabad district, which have already been reduced by nearly 26%.”

There are 6,966 NCZ areas, spread over 2.48 lakh acres across the state. Activists and forest department officials allege that since the department of town and country planning (DTCP) completed its first ground truthing exercise on April 10, NCZ areas have been reduced substantially.

Another environmentalist, Chetan Agarwal, said, “We’re grateful to the CM for restoring Mangar Bani’s buffer to 500 m, and hope this is just the first in a series of decisions to protect the Aravalis in Haryana for future generations.”

Other activists, though, feel NCRPB’s latest move leaves much to be desired. Amina Shervani, a city-based environmentalist and documentary filmmaker, said, “The government should first map the protected zone and put these maps in public domain. This way, public can monitor it. It’s commendable that the government is trying to undo the damage done by the previous government. But I would call it a small victory. The larger battle is still to be won.”

Vivek Kamboj, founder of environmental NGO Haryali Welfare Society, echoed similar sentiments. “A mere 500 m buffer zone around Mangar is unsatisfactory. The entire area is part of the Aravali range, and should be left untouched. Half-a-kilometer of buffer is not enough.”

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