Haryana's Green Manifesto calls for SEZs in Aravalli and Shivalik Ranges

The Green Manifesto states that 8.24 per cent (3,64,154 ha) of the total geographical area of the state has been degraded, which means the productivity of the land has declined, thereby negatively impacting food and water security.
The Aravalli range is considered vital in maintaining the biodiversity of the region
The Aravalli range is considered vital in maintaining the biodiversity of the region

CHANDIGARH: As Haryana's assembly elections approach, environmentalists and ecological experts, alongside local communities, for the first time in the history of the state have crafted Haryana’s inaugural Green Manifesto 2024.

This document demands the legal designation of the Aravalli and Shivalik ranges as Special Ecological Zones (SEZs) due to their crucial ecosystem services. Key initiatives include regulating mining activities, establishing a roadmap to achieve a 21% native forest cover within four years, and involving local communities in creating sacred forests and bans in each village.

Additionally, it advocates for the establishment of Biodiversity Management Committees in every panchayat and municipal ward to delineate ecologically significant areas and complete People’s Biodiversity Registers.

The Green Manifesto details the environmental and ecosystem issues plaguing Haryana. It states that 8.24 per cent (3,64,154 ha) of the total geographical area of the state has been degraded, which means productivity of the land has declined, thereby negatively impacting food and water security. To add to its woes, Haryana is a water deficit state.

The manifesto, the copy of which is with this newspaper reads. “Remove non-native and invasive species like the Vilayati kikar and others planted under the Aravalli plantation project and other such schemes in the Aravallis and Shivaliks in phases and undertake planting of native species.”

The report further reads “Ensure that site-specific afforestation plans are made based on a baseline survey of all the districts to study reference ecosystems to bring back natural ecosystems that result in soil formation, moisture regime development, nutrient cycling, also planting of native grasses and shrubs along with trees is extremely important from an ecological viewpoint. Prioritise planting of native, habitat-specific species for afforestation and restoration, also priority should be given to highly degraded areas such as mines and quarries within the state for afforestation.”

“Most of the Aravalli hills in Gurugram, Nuh and Faridabad districts were damaged and devastated during the time that mining was legal before 2002. Illegal sand and stone mining continues in Nuh district. Haryana has appealed to the Supreme Court to open mining in these districts. Also, air pollution caused by stone crushers and blasting activities is causing negative health impacts for the rural people. Extensive mining on a disproportionate scale without taking remedial measures has resulted in irreversible changes in the ecosystem of the Aravallis,” the manifesto states.

Neelam Ahluwalia, Founder Member, People for Aravallis, a group of rural and urban citizens and ecological experts working to conserve the Aravalli range said, “After the extensive consultation process is complete, the final draft of Haryana’s Green Manifesto 2024 will be submitted to all the political parties contesting the assembly elections this year as a call to action for an active response to environmental degradation and climate crisis affecting the state.”

“Deforestation, illegal encroachments, mining, commercial projects, landfills like Bandhwari along with the absence of stringent policies and enforcement are a big threat to Haryana’s natural ecosystems which are increasing fragmentation and resulting in loss of our green lungs, critical water recharge zones, wildlife habitats and corridors,” he added.

“Since the health of any one of Haryana’s natural and man-made ecosystems directly or indirectly impacts the health of the others, while putting together the first draft of the Green Manifesto, we have spelt out the issues and written demands for each of the broad ecosystems in the state such as forests and hills, wetlands, groundwater, agriculture, air quality along with demands for heat, water, waste management, clean air, pollution reduction etc,” said Neelam.

We believe that this is an important first step in realising a more sustainable future for Haryana,” He said.

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