Raze colonies on Aravalli land in Ghata: Residents 

Gurugram : 9 Dec, 2019 (Hindustan Times)

Gurugram :  Residents of Ghata village have written to the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) and the forest department demanding action against unauthorised housing settlements, which they say have been proliferating in Ghata village, on protected forest land, for the past one-and-a-half years. 

Residents allege that the presence of these colonies, which provide the only housing affordable for a large section of migrant workers in the city, has an indelible impact on the air, water and soil quality in the region.

Spot visits to the region on Saturday and Sunday by a Hindustan Times team found the presence of several hundred, if not thousands, of informal housing units scattered along the Aravalli foothills and the four main johads of the Ghata village and lake bed area.

According to Rajbir Singh, a Ghata resident and one of two primary complainants in the matter, “There are an estimated 50,000 illegal shanties in the area with no proper sewage connections, piped gas, or system to collect and dispose of waste. So untreated wastewater is released onto forest land, waste is constantly being burnt and open fires in the winter are common.”

In his complaint to the authorities on December 4, copies of which are with Hindustan Times, Singh emphasised that khasra numbers 69, 70, 71 and 71 (which are shown in revenue records as part of an old check dam), were particularly prone to encroachment.

Besides this, Rajbir Singh also pointed out that khasra numbers 107 to 112 (which are also heavily encroached upon) are all categorised in revenue records as ‘gair mumkin pahar’, giving them formal recognition as Aravalli in accordance with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s (MoEFCC) Aravalli notification of 1992.

“It is, therefore, the forest department’s duty as well to ensure protection for such forested areas. While we must sympathise with the city’s migrant population and others who live in unauthorised colonies, we cannot overlook their environmental impact,” Prem Singh Tanwar, another resident from Ghata village and a primary complainant in the matter, said.

“Authorities must work to provide affordable housing solutions, else it is common areas that will be the first to go as the city grows and more workers come pouring in,” he added.

Kuldeep Singh, regional officer of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board, said, “We have taken action against such encroachment in the past before and will look into the matter.”

Subash Yadav, district forest officer, could not be reached for comment on Sunday despite multiple attempts.