The move comes after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in October 2020 directed the Haryana government to restore forest in Raisina hills of the Aravalis by January 31, 2021.
“We demolished 11 structures, including farmhouses and boundary walls, today (Wednesday) and plan to carry out more such drives in the coming days. We are in the process of restoring the forest land,” said Sandeep Malik, executive officer, Municipal Council of Sohna.
The first demolition drive in the area was carried out on February 8, when 15 structures were razed. On March 20, another seven structures were flattened and the third demolition was carried out on June 23 when 10 structures were razed. Officials said that due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases and lack of staff the drives had to be delayed.
There are over 400 farmhouses in Raisina area. Demolition notices were issued in June 2019 after a survey. A total of 195 show-cause notices were issued to farmhouses for unauthorised construction in Aravalis, most of which are in Ansals Aravali Retreat.
Acting on the directions of NGT, the Gurgaon administration had in June last year has replaced the term ‘gair mumkin farmhouse’, which had found its way into the revenue records and helped farmhouse owners skirt provisions of the Aravali Notification that came into force in 1992, with the original term, ‘gair mumkin pahad’ (uncultivable hill).
Under the Union environment ministry’s Aravali notification, ‘gair mumkin pahad’ is a protected land where construction of buildings, roads, electrification and cutting of trees is not permitted.
Meanwhile, farmhouse owners in the Retreat said the matter is in court and they purchased the land from private owners. It was never part of any kind of forest area and is not notified under The Punjab Land Preservation Act, they claimed. “Aravali Retreat project is not covered under Aravali notification, hence the question of violating norms doesn’t arise. Also, the notification does not ban construction completely but with prior sanction,” said Sharad Mohan, a farmhouse owner at Ansal Retreat.
Environmentalists, meanwhile, said such drives are required to ensure that the area is again restored as forest. “The NGT order had directed the corporation to restore the land by January 31 this year. It’s been more than 10 months since the order, but the demolition work is not yet over,” said Col SS Oberoi (retd), an environmentalist.