The Haryana Assembly on Wednesday passed the controversial Punjab Land Preservation (Haryana Amendment) Act, 2019 with a voice vote on the concluding day of the budget session as Congress, SAD and INLD MLAs walked out in protest.
The 118-year-old legislation, introduced by the British in 1900, restricts all non-forest activity in thousands of acres of land along the Aravali and Shivalik foothills under Sections 4 & 5. The amendment excludes municipal areas and those notified under master plans (effectively, all urban areas) from the ambit of the law. As a result, a city like Gurugram, which is notified under three master plans, will go entirely out of PLPA’s purview. So will most of Faridabad, where the Haryana government recently said it wants to build a new city over an area of 55,000 hectares. The total area under PLPA in Gurugram is 6,869 hectares. In Faridabad, it’s 4,227 hectares. The total area notified under PLPA in Haryana is 30,000 hectares.
The amendment, which nullifies all notifications under PLPA from the time Haryana was established (November 1, 1966), also gives post-facto approval to existing violations and encroachments, which means illegal constructions in PLPA notified areas will now get legal sanctity.
This will have implications for all legal cases and complaints filed citing PLPA over the decades against illegal construction in the state. It remains to be seen how the amendment affects the sprawling, high-profile Kant Enclave in Faridabad, which was built in a protected area and is facing a legal battle in the Supreme Court.
Environmentalists said the bill wasn’t an amendment but amounted to a cancellation of PLPA. “This bill is essentially a repeal of the PLPA. The bill has lifted the most important legal protection to the Aravalis in South Haryana and many parts of Shivaliks to open it for real estate development, mining, and whatever the state fancies,” said Vivek Kamboj of Haryali, an environmental NGO.
“The bill is the most deadly assault on the Aravalis in the 52-year history of Haryana and is the darkest time for environmental conservation in the state. The numerous amendments combined will effectively nullify the PLPA itself. This is an attempt to give legal sanction to all construction, which have so far been prohibited under PLPA 1900,” said Chetan Agarwal, a forest analyst.