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CITIZENS ACROSS INDIA OBJECT TO THE NEW REGRESSIVE NCR DRAFT REGIONAL PLAN 2041

Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement along with Let India Breathe launched an email petition on 4th January 2022 objecting to the dilutions made in the new NCR Draft Regional Plan 2041 which if implemented will destroy more than 70 percent of the Aravallis and other crucial natural ecosystems in India’s National Capital Region consisting of Delhi, 14 districts in Haryana, 8 districts in Uttar Pradesh and 2 districts in Rajasthan. In the last few days,  more than 3220 citizens, ecologists, conservationists and environment organizations from across India such as United Conservation Movement from Bangalore fighting to protect the Western Ghats, Chhattisgarh Bachao Andolan campaigning to save the Hasdeo forest in Central India, Rainbow Warriors from Goa raising awareness on land and forest issues, Vanashakti NGO from Mumbai fighting for environment causes in Maharashtra, India Greens Party have sent emails to the NCR Planning Board, Ministry of Environment, the politicians and government authorities of these North Indian states objecting to the provisions of this new regressive NCR Draft 2041 and giving suggestions to strengthen the same.

“We are running this campaign ( https://www.letindiabreathe.in/AravalliBachao ) with Aravalli Bachao as India is already one of the most vulnerable nations in the world to climate change. It is the responsibility of our planners and government authorities to strengthen laws and plans to protect our carbon sinks, green lungs and critical water recharge zones like our mountain ecosystems, wetlands, forests, rivers, lakes instead of diluting provisions that give these carbon sinks protection under the law,” said Yash Marwah, Co-Creator, Let India Breathe platform.

One of the major objections to this new draft is the replacement of ‘Natural Conservation Zone’ with ‘Natural Zone’. According to the Draft Regional Plan 2041, the ‘Natural Zone’ will comprise natural features such as mountains, hills, rivers, water bodies and forests which are notified for conservation under central or state laws and recognized as such in land records. In contrast, the NCR Regional Plan 2021, which is currently in force since 2005 has been crystal clear and detailed in defining and demarcating the areas under the ‘Natural Conservation Zone’. In the 2021 plan, the ‘Natural Conservation Zone’ covers all areas in the entire Aravalli range in Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan including hills, forest areas, rivers & tributaries, major lakes, water bodies and ground water recharging areas irrespective of the status of their land records. 

“The Natural Conservation Zone provision in the 2021 Regional Plan needs to be retained in the 2041 NCR Plan as most Aravalli hills and forests in the state of Haryana are not notified. The Aravalli hills are mentioned in the revenue records as ‘Gair Mumkin Pahar’ and ‘Bhood’.   Similarly, most of the forest cover in Haryana is neither notified as ‘forest’ nor mentioned as ‘forest’ in the revenue records.  Almost 50,000+ acres of the Aravallis in Haryana have not yet been notified as deemed forests under any law. The Honourable Supreme Court has repeatedly directed the state of Haryana to identify forests as per dictionary meaning in Godavarman (1996), Lafarge (2011) judgements of the Supreme Court but the government has failed to carry out this exercise. The new Draft NCR Plan impacts 14 districts in Haryana which has the lowest forest cover in India of just 3% and cities with the highest air pollution and water stress” stated Neelam Ahluwalia from the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement. 

Natural ecosystem of the Aravallis in Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan are a critical wildlife habitat & corridor and a biodiversity hotspot with 400+ species of native trees, shrubs, grasses and herbs; 200+ native & migratory bird species, 100+ butterfly species, 20+ reptile species and 20+ mammal species including leopards, jackals, neelgais, porcupines, mongoose, civet cats as well as other wildlife like insects, amphibians etc. 

“To everyone’s surprise, the word ‘Aravalli’ has been deleted from the Draft Regional Plan 2041. Under this new draft, they will not have the protection of the Natural Conservation Zone provision which does not allow construction for real estate in the Aravallis. 70-80% of the Natural Conservation Zone areas under the 2021 NCR Regional Plan which includes large portions of the Aravallis and other natural ecosystems would not qualify to be included under the Natural Zone in the new Draft Regional Plan 2041 which is completely unacceptable,” said Stalin Dayanand, Director, Vanashakti NGO based in Mumbai who also sent the objection email to the new Draft 2041.

“Replacement of the ‘Natural Conservation Zone’ under the 2021 Regional Plan with ‘Natural Zone’ in the Draft Regional Plan 2041, by dropping the term ‘Conservation’ is a regressive step as it signals that conservation is no longer important in the NCR Regional Plan.  All existing Sub-Regional Plans and Master Plans are already using the term ‘Natural Conservation Zone’, and changing the term now will lead to further confusion in the implementation of these plans,” stated Colonel Sarvadaman Oberoi, an environmentalist who fights legal battles for Aravalli protection.

According to the new Draft Regional Plan 2041, ‘Natural Zones’ will be identified by the states using revenue records and ground truthing exercises. This is very troubling as the state governments in the past have tried to dilute the definition of the Aravallis. For instance, a state-level committee headed by the Haryana Principal Secretary, Town and Country Planning in a meeting held in August 2021 for Ground-Truthing of Natural Conservation Zone in the Haryana sub-region of India’s National Capital Region stated that revenue records of Faridabad district only identify ‘Gair Mumkin Pahar‘ (i.e. uncultivable hilly areas) and do not make any mention of the term ‘Aravalli’ thereby wiping out the existence of 20,000 acres of Aravalli forests in Faridabad.

“The NCR Regional Plan is a guiding document for sub-regional plans that states develop. But if the guiding document itself is diluted, then obviously states can dilute further. The term ‘Aravalli’, ‘Forest Areas’, ‘Gair Mumkin Pahad’ must all be included in the new Draft Regional Plan 2041 and must cover all three categories of forest – notified, recorded or deemed as per dictionary meaning, in compliance with the Godavarman (1996) and Lafarge (2011) judgements of the Supreme Court. All Aravalli hills and forests and other natural ecosystems such as wetlands, rivers, lakes, water bodies irrespective of whether they are notified or not or mentioned in the revenue records or identified in ground truthing exercises, must get protection under the new NCR Draft Regional Plan 2041,” stated Vijay Dhasmana, an ecologist and rewilder.

Delhi-NCR and the entire North Indian belt is already one of the most polluted and water stressed regions in India. As global warming and climate change intensify, this region will get more impacted. “Air pollution of India’s National Capital Region will become worse if the Aravallis are taken out of the new Draft Regional Plan 2041 as these are the only barrier protecting millions of people living in NCR cities and South Haryana from the sand storms coming from the Thar desert. Aravallis with their natural cracks and fissures have the potential to put 2 million litres of water per hectare in the ground every year and thus act as a critical water recharge zone for the water starved Gurgaon, Faridabad, Delhi, other NCR cities, South Haryana and Rajasthan where the extraction is 300% more than the recharge and groundwater levels are dangerously low. Aravallis must get protection under the new Draft Regional Plan 2041 or else millions of people living in Delhi-NCR, South Haryana, Rajasthan will lose their lifeline for clean air and water security,” stated Anu PD from the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement.

For more details on objections filed by the Aravalli Bachao Citizens Group, please refer to our website page:

NCR PLAN 2041

Contact us on our email id: aravallibachao.team@gmail.com

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