A day before the NCR Planning Board met on April 25, where urban development minister Kamal Nath and Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda hijacked the meeting to implement their agenda of giving forest land to builders, the PMO had directed the board not to approve any plan without satisfying the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF).
But the two Congress ministers slammed the environment ministry for interfering in their business and showed the door to its officers who participated in the meeting. They, along with the other members of the board, gave approval for converting 10,000 hectare of forest into Natural Conservation Zone (NCZ).
The PMO had written a letter to the board on April 24, stating that no decision on converting the forest into NCZ can be taken without the approval of the MoEF. If the proposal had been cleared, 500 hectares of forest land falling in Gurgaon and Faridabad would have gone to builders for developing tourism and recreational activities. The MoEF has disapproved the conversion.
The tourism policy of Haryana allows construction of residential and commercial real estate in up to 20 per cent and 10 per cent in a minimum area of 300 acres marked for NCZ. "The two plans contradict each other. The state government might go back to its tourism policy after taking the approval from NCR Planning Board. Only when an amendment in the sub-regional plan has been made, will the MoEF give its approval," said a bureaucrat of the MoEF. MoEF has also asked the state to mark its forest cover before approving any plan.
"The PMO in its letter written to the NCR Planning Board on April 24 has said that no decision on the forest land can be taken without satisfying the concerns of MoEF. This has come as a saving grace for us," added an officer.
The Haryana government has said that there is no question of amending the state mega tourism policy and that there has been no breach of the PMO's concern. "In the meeting, we have said that only 0.5 per cent of the area will be used for construction. I do not see any reason why the MoEF should have any objection," said Anurag Rastogi, chief town and country planner of the Haryana government. The state government is also of the view that the marking of forest cannot be done overnight and so, other development projects cannot be stalled.