Earlier, the plan was to carry out a survey of only forest land protected under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA).
The decision to conduct the survey was initially taken at a meeting headed by deputy commissioner Yash Garg earlier this month after a Supreme Court order to remove all encroachments from forest areas.
While hearing a petition on encroachment in the Faridabad Aravalis, the apex court had ordered the demolition of 10,000 houses in Khori village.
“As per the SC order, we are carrying out a survey of illegal encroachments in the entire forest areas of the two districts. This includes 7,019 hectares in Gurugram and 8,688 hectares in Faridabad.
The Aravali plantation area also overlaps with PLPA areas,” said Vinod Kumar, Haryana additional principal chief conservator of forests.
Earlier, the department was planning to survey 6,800 hectares under PLPA in Gurgaon and 5,430 hectares in Faridabad. After the survey has listed the types of structures built in and around the forest areas, the forest department will go through the records and identify the illegal ones.
“The survey is on the right track. We had a meeting with all Gurugram administration and MCG officials regarding the ongoing drone survey this week. A list will be prepared based on the survey report and subsequently demolition letters will be sent to the owners of illegal structures,” said V S Tanwar, principal chief conservator of forests, Haryana.
It has often been seen that residents of villages around the Aravalis, who were allotted land by the government for agriculture, sell it to private developers, who, in turn, build farmhouses and other such structures.
Khori, for instance, was one such village that had come up illegally on forest land.
Meanwhile, environmentalists pointed out that since the Haryana government has not finalised the definition of forest till now, the survey will still leave out areas which are yet to be declared as forest.
“The government has not yet finalised the definition of forest, and thus many forest areas haven’t been included in the survey. It was supposed to submit a list of areas which are part of natural conservation zones to the Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change in 2019, which is still pending,” said Vaishali Rana Chandra, an environmental activist.
In Gurugram, around 4,180 hectares fall in the “yet to be decided” category, while Faridabad has 3,436 hectares.
“If Haryana decides on the definition of forest, the region will get more clarity regarding the definition of gair mumkin pahar (uncultivable hill), bhood (sand dunes) and foothills. Also, more areas will be identified as forest and can be included in the Aravalis. The state first needs to define forest in order to protect and conserve it,” said Vivek Kamboj, an environmentalist.