The Centre has urged the Haryana government to demarcate the Aravali foothills as a ‘water sensitive zone’ and bring it under the protection of environment laws, reflecting the concern about rapid depletion of the water table in NCR and fears that the foothills could be overrun by real estate projects in future.
The Haryana government is in the middle of a demarcation exercise to draw afresh the contours of Natural Conservation Zones (NCZ), which are mostly areas in and around the Aravalis. Construction cannot exceed 0.5% of an NCZ area.
But the exercise set off alarm bells last month after a TOI report on April 7 revealed that not even 10% of the ‘bhood’ area in Gurgaon would qualify for classification as foothills. ‘Bhood’ is a revenue term for the Aravali foothills. It drew widespread protests from environmentalists and the forest department.
The same concern prompted the Centre to intervene. In a letter to Haryana chief secretary D S Dhesi, dated April 26, the Union ministry of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation urged the state government to ensure that the Aravali hills and the ‘bhood’ were protected appropriately as ecological sensitive areas for the sake of fresh water availability in NCR in the non-monsoon period.
Environmentalists have maintained that ‘bhood’ areas are important water recharge zones their exclusion from NCZ will have serious implications on the sustainability of NCR.