The Nuh administration, while conducting a survey of the Tauru forest, has discovered at least 55 houses illegally constructed in protected areas in the Aravallis, officials aware of the development said on Tuesday, adding that the encroachers have been given till December 31 to remove the structures or face action.
Areas that are part of the Aravali Plantation — a project carried out in the 1990s to revive around 33,000 hectares across six Haryana districts — are notified under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, which prohibits the chopping down of trees and any non-forest construction. In August, the Nuh forest department began demarcating Aravalli land with the help of the revenue department, and even if the land ownership is with a village panchayat, no one is allowed to carry out construction work, said officials.
However, the forest department, during its survey of the Tauru forests between August and November, found that 55 houses were illegally built on protected land in Khori Kalan village — around 50km from Gurugram — between three to five years ago, officials said.
Nuh deputy conservator of forest Vijender Singh said the encroachers have been asked to demolish the structures and remove the debris by December 31. “We have sent the first notice and given them time till December 23. We will serve two more notices, and if they fail to provide valid documentation of the land, demolition drives will be carried out in January,” he said.
“If they fail to submit their explanation or remove illegal encroachment by themselves within the specified time, the action will be initiated to remove the encroachment without any further reference to encroachers. All sorts of cost incurred on removal of illegal encroachment and restoration of the area will be recovered from the encroachers and in case of default, it shall be a fit charge on the property and shall be recovered by deposing it under Land Revenue Act and other relevant laws,” he added.
Once the restoration is complete, the forest department will also conduct drone surveys every month to ensure that no further encroachment takes place, officials said.
Singh said encroachers have grabbed Aravalli Plantation land, which is a notified forest area. “They have carried out non-forestry activities by committing illegal encroachment, levelling of ground, breaking of land, erection of boundary wall, construction concrete structures on land notified under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Construction activities are in violation of orders of the Supreme Court, the Forest Conservation Act, and the Indian Forest Act,” he said.
Incidentally, earlier this month, a fire swept through the forests near Khori Kalan, gutting hundreds of trees. The blaze was so powerful that it took fire tenders around two days to bring it under control, officials said.
Forest officials said that Haryana has just around 3.6% of its total land categorised as forests — among the lowest for states in India. However, encroachments on forest land is a recurring problem that the state suffers.
In May, the Gurugram forest department found illegal structures and farmhouses build in the Aravallis in Manesar, Behrampur, Naurangpur, Ghata , Gwal Pahari, Gairatpur Bas, Sohna, Raisina, Manesar, Shikohpur, Sahrawan, Naurangpur, Sakatpur, and Baharampur. A demolition drive was carried out and the illegal structures were razed, said officials.