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GURUGRAM: The forest department will begin a survey of illegal encroachments in the Aravalis from Saturday. Four drones will be used to conduct the week-long survey of 6,800 hectares of forest land falling under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), officials from the department said.

The decision to conduct the survey was taken at a meeting headed by deputy commissioner Yash Garg on Tuesday. Referring to a Supreme Court order on demolition of 10,000 houses in Khori village in the Aravalis, Garg had said removing unauthorised constructions in forest areas was “top priority”.

“We are starting a drone survey on Saturday in PLPA areas and will prepare a list of the illegal structures found. Action will be taken against their owners as per law,” said Rajeev Tajyan, divisional forest officer, Gurgaon.

Tajyan added, “Four teams will be deployed with one drone each to carry out the survey. It will take us seven days to finish the survey. Once it is complete, notices will be sent to the owners for demolition.” Each team will have three members.

Environmentalists, meanwhile, pointed out that a survey of illegal structures in Gurgaon’s Aravali areas was carried out last year too by the forest department, but no action was taken against the encroachers. A detailed list of these structures was submitted to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the Sonya Ghosh vs state of Haryana case last year. Now, after fresh directives of the Supreme Court, the survey is being repeated, they said.

Last year’s survey report said there are at least 500 such farmhouses built illegally on Aravali land in Gurgaon, concentrated in areas like Gwalpahari, Gairatpur Bas, Sohna, Raisina and Manesar. The report also had details of the total area occupied by them and their locations.

“On June 18 last year, the forest department submitted a 308-page report to NGT regarding illegal structures in PLPA areas in Gurgaon. Why do they need to carry out the same exercise again? This is a deliberate attempt to provide more time to the owners of these illegal farmhouses,” said Vivek Kamboj, an environmentalist.

“The Sohna municipal council has issued 350 notices to owners of illegal structures and action has been taken against 20 of them. Despite this, the district administration as well as Sohna Municipal Council have failed to stop illegal construction and are not getting rid of encroachments,” said Vaishali Rana Chandra, another activist.

In 2018, NGT had given the Haryana government two months to set up a committee and another three months to identify all forest land covered under the Aravali Notification that came into force in 1992. T

he committee was, however, set up only in July 2019, after which demolition notices were issued to several farmhouses. No demolitions, however, were carried out.

Acting on NGT’s directions, the Gurgaon administration had in June 2020 replaced the term “gair mumkin farmhouse”, which had found its way into the revenue records and helped farmhouse owners skirt provisions of the Aravalis Notification, with the original term, “gair mumkin pahad” (uncultivable hill).

As per the report submitted to NGT by the state government, a total of 195 show-cause notices were issued to farmhouse owners for unauthorised construction in the Aravalis. Most of these farmhouses are in Ansals Aravali Retreat, which is located in Raisina.

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