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A Tribune Exclusive
Forest gives way to leisure park
Haryana goes out of way to ‘help’ DLF
Sunit Dhawan
Tribune News Service

Gurgaon, October 4
A “shady” deal between a Haryana government agency and realty giant DLF is all set to raze trees and other plantation from hundreds of acres of forest land in Gurgaon, which is already turning into a concrete jungle.

The Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) recently handed over a large chunk of forest land in Wazirabad village of the district to DLF for a recreation-cum-leisure project.

For reasons known only to the authorities concerned, the land -which has the prevailing market price of Rs 5,000 crore -was given to the DLF for nearly Rs 1,750 crore.

Not only this, the state authorities, which had earlier specified that the successful bidder would have to obtain the requisite clearances for the project at “his own risk and cost”, later, offered to obtain these approvals.

This, despite the fact that a major chunk of the said land forms part of the ecologically fragile Aravalli hills and is covered under Sections 4 and 5 of the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), 1900, and the Ministry of Environment and Forests’ (Aravalli forest/plantation) notification dated May 7, 1992, which inter alia prohibits construction, location of industry, mining and cutting of trees etc.

“As per orders of the Supreme Court, it is a forest land and cannot be diverted for non-forestry activities without Union Government’s approval under the Forest Conservation Act”, said the District Forest Officer, Gurgaon, in a report submitted to the Forest Department.

The HSIIDC invited international competitive bids for the said project in an advertisement dated January 15, 2009.

As per the advertisement, the world-class project, to be developed on 350 acres of land in Wazirabad village, would comprise commercial, residential, sports and golf course facilities.

The advertisement specified that of the total land measuring 350.715 acres, 241.50 acres fall under the PLPA, and another 85 acres under the Radar Restriction Zone and PLPA.

It also clearly mentioned that the successful bidder would have to obtain all statutory clearances, including permission under Aravalli notification dated May 7, 1992; PLPA; Forest Conservation Act; EIA notifications and other applicable statutory clearances from the authorities concerned before undertaking any development works on the site.

However, a single bid --- from the DLF --- was received and the project could not take off. In July, the HSIIDC invited fresh bids for the execution of the project. This time, the advertisement stated that the Haryana government would obtain the requisite approvals of the competent authorities in respect of the land falling under restrictions (i.e. PLPA, Aravalli Notification/Plantation).

The new advertisement also conceded that an additional floor-area ratio (FAR) of 20 per cent on the area under golf-related activity (approx. 273 acre) would be allowed.

“In the event of any restrictions on the use of part of the land for the project in the approvals to be obtained by the respective authorities, this FAR will be allowed to be used elsewhere within the overall Gurgaon/Manesar Development Plan. Further, the Government of Haryana will ensure the provision of connectivity for the project in case the clearances for the intended usage of land under the PLPA are not available for any reasons”, the advertisement mentioned.

In a recent report, a task force constituted by the Haryana Forest Minister to monitor the non-forest activities in General Section 4 and Sections 4 and 5 of the PLPA maintains that the present commercial rate of land in this area is about Rs 20 crore per acre, which means the direct value of this forest land is Rs 5,000 crore, while the HSIIDC has offered a “ridiculous amount” of Rs 9 crore for the land as net present value (NPV) to the Forest Department.

The report points out that a notification was issued by the Industries Department, Haryana, under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, for acquiring 278 acre, 1 kanal and 10 marla of land for the HSIDC in Wazirabad village in 2004. The public purpose, as stated in the notification, was “Development of recreational/ leisure project and other public utilities”.

“Is it really worthwhile to divert such ecologically important forest land to make way for a golf course for some privileged few…Can it be allowed to happen under the Forest Conservation Act to further the commercial interest of a corporation?” the report notes.



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