In a move that could invite massive opposition from green activists, the Haryana government may soon allow stone crushers to operate close to the Aravali plantation area. The government is likely to shrink the prohibited zone from the present one kilometre around the forest to 50 metres.
The decision was taken at a high-level meeting chaired by chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Gurgaon on Tuesday. It was also attended by the stone crushers associations from across the state.
According to recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed CEC, the minimum distance of the crusher zone from any plantation or forest area should be at least 1km. However, stone crushers associations complained to Hooda that they were facing resistance from forest officials, which was adversely affecting their operation and business.
Sources said that Hooda has assured them of revising the norm and that the decision has been taken considering the fact that in Rajasthan the mandatory distance between Aravali forest and crusher zone is just 25m. "There is hardly any forest cover in areas that come under the plantation zone. This decision will have no adverse impact on forest,'' said a senior official.
But those who have been fighting for protecting the Aravalis are not convinced. "Haryana can't compare its case with Rajasthan, which has huge chunks of Aravali hills. These are not so close to Delhi. Rajasthan has never had full plantation in the Aravali region,'' said R P Balwan, former conservator of forest .
He added that a complete satellite imagery of all the plantation area of Aravalis was submitted to the apex court. "That was done on the basis of remote sensing. How can we discard it now? Allowing crushing close to the plantation area will destroy the plants as a thick layer of dust will get formed on their leaves,'' Balwan said.
A serving forest official also said that though the CEC recommendation is not binding on the state, this decision will only disturb the ecological balance restored after the blanket ban on mining activities in the region.