DELHI: “Conservation zones” in the national capital region, including the eco-sensitive Aravalis, Yamuna riverbed and areas around major water bodies, have been the main targets of Real Estate developers who sought the lifting of restrictions on “recreational activities” put in place by state government tourism policies. In a concerted approach, they appealed to the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB) to, in fact, include tourism projects under the “recreational” category.
Haryana has been pushing for removing all restrictions on construction in the conservation zones — a proposal turned down by the planning committee of NCRPB. Now, it emerges that at least five real estate companies expressed similar views in their submissions to the board. The details of objections and suggestions uploaded on the NCRPB website shows that these companies even used the same wording with regard to construction activities in conservation zones.
Urging inclusion of tourism projects within “regional recreation activities” they sought that the provision for allowing “regional recreational activities after obtaining environmental clearance from competent authority” be changed to “regional recreational activities as per state government tourism policies after obtaining environmental clearance from competent authority”.
Barring the Aravalis falling in Haryana, there is little scope of carrying out such activities in any other part of NCR. Moreover, Haryana’s tourism policy, which incentivizes mega projects, says that in such projects, 70% area will be used for games and rides, 15% for commercial activities and the remaining 15% for parking and green space. Commercial activities includes multiplexes, restaurants and accommodation.
Further, mega tourism projects can be set up in an area of 2.5 acres to 10 acres, the policy says.
On the contrary, green activists demanded not just a blanket ban on construction activities in eco-sensitive zones but also increase of forest cover to 33% in NCR as envisaged in the National Forest Policy “The proportion of forest cover in NCR with relation to its total geographical area is presently 6.2% against a national average of 21.05%. Within the NCR, Delhi has 11.9% forest cover, while Haryana has only 3.5%. Forest degradation is a matter of grave concern,” environmentalist and film maker Pradip Krishen said.
He suggested that all forests be treated thus irrespective of their ownership, status in government records, and current condition. A large portion of Aravali with green cover, including the sacred Mangar bani, have not yet been notified or recognized as forest on the ground that these are owned by individuals.