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| Last Updated:: 09/09/2014

Realtor builds road through 'sacred' Mangar forest near Delhi

NEW DELHI: A real estate company has allegedly built a road in the forest near the sacred grove of Mangar Bani off the Gurgaon-Faridabad highway, felling at least 45 trees in the process and dumping mounds of soil in the ecologically sensitive Aravali zone.


The forest department has filed a case against the company for illegal encroachment and felling of trees. "The matter will now be heard in court," said area forest ranger Virender Sharma.


The alleged violator is one of the three real estate companies that have filed an application with the revenue authorities to "correct" the status of land records in the area from gair mumkin pahar (uncultivable land) to agricultural land.



The construction comes at a time when Haryana government and Union environment ministry are surveying and identifying forest areas for protection around Mangar Bani, traditionally conserved as a sacred forest by locals.


Many villagers in the Mangar area have been concerned that real estate companies will start building in the ecologically sensitive area which used to be common community land. The land where the road was being constructed falls under section 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act, where most non-forest activities are restricted.



The National Green Tribunal had in April directed the Haryana government and Union environment ministry to identify forest stretches in the area within a month — a process that is currently on.


Though Mangar Bani is not notified as a forest yet, numerous agencies including the environment ministry have suggested that the ecologically sensitive area be protected. The Bani and other parts of the hills are classified as a natural conservation zone (NCZ) in the draft regional plan 2021. Organizations such as the Snow Leopard Trust have also found evidence of predators such as leopard in the area.



"The company was trying to expand and strengthen the dirt track so that it is viable for transporting heavy equipment. They could also be laying soil on the rocky surface of the hill to make it appear like agricultural land," said Chetan Agarwal, an environmental analyst.



Forest staff has broken elevated parts of the road with an earthmover but couldn't do much about the stretch that has already been constructed.

Sunil Harsana, a villager and local activist said the forest department was immediately informed when villagers saw trees being damaged. "The forest staff thankfully arrived on time and took action. But we are worried as companies may start constructions again," he said.


Activists have sent a letter to the Haryana forest department. "The land falling within the broken down pillars which is claimed by the company, has dense forest growth of native Aravalli species such as dhak, dhau and ronjh."


The letter cites a stay order by NGT which states, "The state government is also directed not to issue any permissions permitting fragmentation of the areas failing in village Mangar, gairmumkin pahar in district Faridabad till the next date of hearing and in any case without leave of the tribunal."



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