NEW DELHI: Details of the agenda distributed among states for the NCRPB meeting scheduled for Tuesday show that the Haryana government insisted on doing away with the term “hills” as well after the term “Aravalis” was dropped and replaced with “hills” in the draught National Capital Region (NCR) Plan 2041 prepared by the NCR Planning Board (NCRPB). The state government requested modifications in the final minutes and wrote to the board more than once, TOI has learned, after the draught minutes of the last NCRPB meeting in October 2021 were published. However, the housing and urban affairs ministry and the NCRPB refused to budge.
The terms “mountains and hills” were used in the draught plan that was eventually made public to define what a “natural zone” is. According to sources, the word “mountain” was inserted when the School of Planning and Architecture provided input. However, the addition of “mountains” hasn’t done much to allay the worries of Aravali observers once the title itself has been dropped. Laws like the Aravali Notification and several Supreme Court rulings safeguard the “Aravalis.” However, “mountains and hills” is uncharted ground that raises questions regarding the potential weakening of legal protections for the historic ranges.
This nomenclature’s “natural zones” are a problem in and of itself. Since they are a modification of “natural conservation zone (NCZ),” NCRPB’s intention to alter this terminology has encountered opposition both outside and inside the government. The Union environment ministry supported the replacement of the word “natural zone” in the regional plan with “NCZ,” according to the board’s agenda materials. The majority of citizen criticisms of the plan opposed the elimination of NCZ.
By definition, NCZs require the conservation of notified areas, and the existing regulations only permit construction in a 0.5 percent of an NCZ. No such definition of a “natural zone” exists. The NCRPB had designated environmentally sensitive areas, such as the extension of the Aravali range, forest areas, rivers and tributaries, sanctuaries, important lakes and water bodies as NCZs in both the regional plans of 2001 and 2021. NCZ was referenced in the Regional Plan 2041’s initial draught as well. According to sources, natural zones were substituted for NCZs after states, particularly Haryana, provided comments. These new zones would include any naturally occurring characteristics, including hills and mountains, rivers, and waterbodies.
It went on to define “natural features” as those designated for preservation or conservation under the Forest Conservation Act, designated wildlife sanctuaries under the Wildfire Protection Act, designated eco-sensitive zones, designated wetlands, and designated conservation areas under the Environment Protection Act of 1986. The draught said that the aforementioned laws “will be applicable as amended from time to time, together with the notifications made thereunder and will be applied subject to various judgments of the Supreme Court, high courts, and NGT, as appropriate.”