Saving What Is Left: Villagers Fought Years Of Legal Battle To Save Forest Outside Gurgaon From Builders
Between India’s polluted capital New Delhi and the vastly growing suburb of Gurgaon lies a stretch of centuries-old unspoilt grove — the Mangar Bani forest. Despite so much of urbanisation and pollution around, the forest has been able to maintain its pristine beauty, because of the long-running legal battle.
The local villagers are of the belief that for centuries that it is a sin to cut its trees and that is why the forest still has the thick green cover with all the flora and fauna — dozens of chirping birds, wild leopards and rare species of insects and flowers.
The unrestrained urban growth of Gurgaon in recent days has now threatened to swallow hundreds of acres of Mangar Bani. Many real estate companies and residents argued in the National Green Tribunal of India whether Mangar Bani is a forest, farmland just a bunch of arid rocks?
After years of court battle, 677 acres of Mangar Bani grove have been saved from builders, even though the developers own dozens of acres of forestland. The state government has also declared it as a no-construction zone. The state forest department has also deployed guards around the forest to protect it from illegal logging.
The battle for Mangar Bani is a big struggle to keep green areas protected in an era of vast urbanisation. It is going from the 1980s, when real estate companies and affluent investors lined up to buy pieces of land from the villagers. However, villagers resisted against it when they realised that it will actually lead to cutting down of trees.
Last year, the Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar surveyed the area and he was convinced that it was pristine forest land. His government has prohibited any construction around 1200 acre area around it. The Mangar Bani act as critical aquifers to recharge the groundwater for the National Capital Region.
The villagers around the forest believe that if someone break even a twig for his or her personal need, misfortune will strike. That is the fear that kept the forest alive for over a thousand years.
Today school trips, bird-watching tours, research studies by college students, etc. are carried out in the forest.
The Logical Indian supports the initiative to keep the forest protected from being swallowed by urbanisation. The Haryana government and the Delhi government has done a splendid job to preserve the forest’s pristine beauty.