Gurgaon: A committee appointed by the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF&CC) has turned down a proposal to build an AIIMS in Manethi village of Rewari .
The project was planned over 235 acres falling under Aravali plantation. The committee rejected the proposal saying the area has dense forest with 16,000 trees and 21,000 plants, and is home to many wild species including black buck (Haryana’s state animal) and sambhar.
Sources in the ministry said the project was turned down because of two factors. “First, Haryana already has very low forest cover — at 3.59% of its geographical area. Second, Manethi has dense forest with over 16,000 fully-grown trees and is home to many wild species,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
Even though the district administration proposed to divert land to the forest department in Masani barrage, so that non-forest activity could be carried out in Manethi, the committee turned down the proposal and suggested the state government should look for alternatives. “Destroying existing, dense forest at Manethi and carrying out fresh plantation at Masani barrage will not only be destructive for the environment, but also will not be cost effective. We’ve suggested the government should look for an alternative site. In fact, Masani barrage could be a good option to build the healthcare facility,” said the official.
Calling it a violation of the Supreme Court judgement, former forest conservator R P Balwan told TOI, “The proposal was bound to be rejected. In the case of T N Godavarman Thirumulpad vs Union of India, the Supreme Court clearly said ‘forest’ must be understood according to its ‘dictionary meaning’. In many other orders, the same was reiterated by the Apex court. The Aravali plantation, therefore, is clearly deemed forest. Authorities should have applied their mind before proposing a project on forest land. There is a large chunk of land owned by panchayats in the state. Establishing AIIMS is certainly important, but it can easily be planned on panchayat or private land.”
Talking about the importance of the Manethi forest, renowned forester and former principal chief conservator of forests (Rajasthan) R N Mehrotra, said, “Manethi has dense forest which is home to many wild species. Most importantly, the globally threatened White-naped Tit (parus nuchalis) is found here. Also, the Aravali foothills have huge ecological importance as it recharges groundwater. There is a need to protect such forests as we are already facing climate emergency.”
During 1990s and 2000s, European Union funds were spent to carry out plantation in the Aravalis. Nearly 3.3 crore trees were planted at a cost of Rs 175 crore, over 30,000 hectares across 13 districts that comprise of Aravalis in Haryana. That included district Rewari, where plantation was carried out on 412 hectare in Manethi.