Once a desolate and potholed stretch of road connecting two major towns of Haryana, the Gurgaon Faridabad Expressway now offers great connectivity – and a path to rapid progress. The area around the road is poised to become the next realty destination say industry experts, as a number of residential and commercial projects have already been launched along the road – particularly near the Millennium City. The maximum development is taking place around three Gurgaon villages – viz. Ghata, Baliyawas, and Gual Pahari. However, local residents of these villages say that this area, being an eco-sensitive zone, must be developed with care, so that the fragile eco-system of the Aravallis is not affected.
The first developer to spot the potential of this area was Ansals, who developed the Valley View Apartments around a bevy of farm houses that still exist today – but are under the threat of being swept away in the realty boom. The decision of the MCG to bring Ghata and Gual Pahari under its wings has also put a question mark on the future of a number of farmhouses, as ownership of many of these is allegedly contentious. Mahesh Dayma, Councillor of Ward No. 32, and a resident of Ghata, says that a large number of farm houses on both sides of the road have been carved out of the village common land, and are illegally occupied by individuals – in many cases by builders. “I have raised this issue in the MCG House meeting, and we will ensure that the village common land is not siphoned off. I also want to point out that many builders who have already set up projects in these villages have not delivered on the social responsibility, as demanded by their agreements with the government,” says Dayma.
In his opinion, real estate developers should be allowed to set up projects only if they are ready to follow the rule of law, particularly in and around the Aravallis. These hills act as the green lungs of not only Gurgaon but the entire NCR, so there is need to handle development in an eco-friendly manner. Clearly, his concerns are not unfounded, as one of the residents near Ansal Valley View Apartments takes us to a massive pond of sewerage near the Colony wall, and also points out that large quantities of untreated water are released by the Colony without any proper treatment. Azad Singh Tanwar, a local property dealer, says that while the MCG has put the future of farm houses in a quandary, it does not take any action against builders who are polluting the area wantonly. “This water seeps underground and also damages the tress and plants. Why is no action being taken against the polluters?” he asks.
Just next to the Ansals is Paras Trade Centre, a state-of-the-art trade tower that is likely to be completed soon. However, with no major infrastructure for sewage and sanitation in the area, it is most likely that the natural contours and gullies of the Aravallis would be used to divert the waste water. Just a few hundred metres ahead, some mega residential projects are being built by Krissh Developers, Provence Estates and Ninnaniya Builders. Realty experts say that high-end projects are coming up in the area, as the FAR allowed in this belt is 1.2 – as compared to other parts of Gurgaon where FAR is 1.75.
Sanjay Sharma of Qubrex says that a couple of years back no one could envisage the kind of development taking place in these pristine hills. “I thought that not many projects would come up in the area, as it is a forest area and the government would ensure that its sanctity is preserved,” he says. Apart from larger apartments (due to a lower FAR), there will be less density as well, says Sanjay. He predicts that it might come up as another posh part of Gurgaon, where the rich and High Net-Worth Individuals (HNIs) make their homes – also owing to close proximity to Delhi (especially with the proposed new connection from Mehrauli to Faridabad Road).
In addition to apartments, this area also has a number of hotels, malls, entertainment and educational zones at the periphery, particularly on the Gurgaon side.
Two IT SEZs have already been launched. One of these—built by ASF—has already been completed, along the Faridabad Road-Mehrauli Road connecting Gual Pahari-Jaunapur and Mehrauli. The other one is on the main Gurgaon-Faridabad Road, and is called the Metro IT SEZ.
Vijay Yadav, a resident, says that this area also has great tourist potential – with Sohna Tourist Complex, Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, Surajkund and Damdama Lakes in close vicinity. “This area could also be developed for adventure sports—like climbing, rappelling, shooting, desert biking—and resorts could also come up.”
With water being a precious commodity in this entire region, the builders will have to adopt sustainable practices (as being evolved in TERI in their Retreat close by) believe experts, as this area also acts as a catchment for the Millenium City. Rakesh Ambawata, a local, says that the government will have to ensure that rampant construction does not take place. “The builders should set up sewerage treatment units, and there should be provision for adequate water. If this does not happen then the Aravallis will face certain death,” he warns, adding that consequences will be borne by the entire NCR.
Just behind the TERI Retreat is a massive glass building, housing the ASF IT SEZ. Facing the Gual Pahari village, this SEZ is already showing how commercial activity in the area could convert the pristine hills into another shadow of MG Road, or the Cyber City. The area around the SEZ abounds with tea and snack shops, the villagers have concretised their abodes and are expecting tenants in the shape of the support staff that will service the SEZ, and apartments are coming up nearby. A large number of cabs are already zooming around and moving towards the Delhi border, which connects this village to Mehrauli. The Delhi government has also announced that it will upgrade this road, so that connectivity with Gurgaon and Faridabad is improved.
Anil Kumar, a resident, says that the time has come for this area to be developed, and be a part of the Millennium City. “For a long time we have felt that development has bypassed us, but now the roads to Gual Pahari are witnessing development,” he says. The villagers recall the time when it was difficult even to visit Gurgaon, as transport facilities were poor, and roads desolate and unsecure. Now every house in the village has personal transport, and people can afford to go any where they want.
Moving from Gual Pahari towards the Faridabad side, one encounters a number of petrol pumps and a Solar Development Centre set up by a government of India PSU. However, after that there is little development, as one moves towards the Toll Plaza being maintained by Reliance Infra. The road definitely is better, but there is no provision of streetlights.
Even as residents demand better facilities along the road, insiders point to rumours that Reliance Infra might exit the Road project, as it is finding it unviable. The issue of 4,000 trucks that carry stones to different areas of the NCR from the crusher zone, but refuse to pay toll, is a major bone of contention. They even resort to violence. Although Reliance has complained to the Haryana government, not much has happened on this front. Experts say that if Reliance exits this project it could be a big setback to the Public Private Participation (PPP) Model being promoted by the Haryana government. This is the first road that has been developed under the PPP model.
The encroachment of land in the Aravallis is another issue that could become a major problem for the government in the near future, warns Deepak Bhadana, a resident of Faridabad. Bhadana says that large parcels of land have either been grabbed, or bought illegally, by influential and powerful persons in villages such as Mangar – which is a sacred grove of the Gujjars. Bhadana, who deals in farmland, says that the Consolidation Act, which was meant to preserve the village common land and small holdiings, was used in such a manner that outsiders were given hilly land in Aravalli villages. Revenue officials allegedly partitioned the common hilly land using the Consolidation Act, and denotified it in Villages Rozka Gujjar and Kot. The former is in fact a Be-Chirag village, where no one lives, while most of the land in Village Kot (of Faridabad) was common hilly land. Bhadana says rules have been subverted to benefit a few powerful people, and it is now upon the Court to undo the wrongs. Experts meanwhile say that under the Punjab Land Preservation Act and Forest Act, the Aravallis are protected areas, where non-forest activity is not allowed.
With the Mangar Development Plan 2031 up for notification, local villagers say that this would result in more encroachment by powerful elements, as prices would escalate. The politicians, bureaucrats and realtors have an eye on close to 100 villages lying in this forest belt. The need of the hour is to stop this from happening, says an environmentalist preferring anonymity.
In fact, R.K Balwan, a senior forest official, had earlier told Friday Gurgaon that even the farm houses in the Aravallis were illegal, and could face possible eviction, as this entire area comes under forests. He further said that the entire water drainage system in the Aravallis had been damaged due to construction, leading to the drying up of the Surajkund and Badhkal lakes.
Ahead of the crusher zone is Faridabad. Apart from a Hanuman Temple, and a major complex being built by the Indian Institute of Immunology, nothing much is on the horizon close to Faridabad. The access from the Faridabad side is constricted by a large number of dumper repairing shops on both sides of the road, and a slum. This Expressway perhaps represents the lop-sided development approach adopted by the Indian state, where people on one end of the spectrum are becoming richer while the other end waits for the trickle-down phenomenon.