The devastation on Aravalli is from Ahmedabad to Delhi

(Gujarati to Google translation)

The Aravalli mountain range starting from Ahmedabad to Delhi is in danger. 290 million years ago, 7 to 8 km above sea level. The uplifted rocks form the Aravalli mountain range. Its environment is being destroyed. The country’s Supreme Court has taken this matter seriously.

One of the oldest mountain ranges in the world and once higher than the Himalayas was the Aravalli mountain range. Due to 100 million years of erosion, nature has lost 90% of its existence in the Aravalli mountain range. But now the damage done in the last 200 years is more than 100 million years.

This range enters the southern part of Haryana from Gujarat through Ajmer and Jaipur of Rajasthan. By the time it reaches Delhi, the height of this mountain range starts decreasing. Thus, this mountain range starts from Ahmedabad and becomes a plain by the time it reaches Delhi. Gulbai hills located in Ahmedabad are also a part of the Aravalli mountain range.

The recent order of the Supreme Court banning new leases for mining in the Aravalli hills spread across four states Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Gujarat has raised new hopes about the endangered Aravalli ecosystem, which is on the verge of complete destruction. The length of the Aravalli range is 700 km. 80 per cent of it is located in Rajasthan. Delhi’s Rashtrapati Bhavan is built on the Raisela hill which is a part of the Aravalli mountain range.

Mining industrialization and urbanization have long plagued the people of the Aravallis with illegal mining, excavation and construction. This has caused serious, perhaps irreversible damage to the vast ecosystem that stretches over thousands of square kilometers. Which has adversely affected desertification, rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge, natural drainage, ecological, flora and fauna diversity.

The destruction of many parts of the Aravallis has been going on for more than four decades. Interest in mining and real estate is very deep. The powerful are constantly trying to circumvent regulations and court orders.

The Supreme Court order does not bar the operation of existing mining leases. No leases should be finalised and issued until the Supreme Court clears the way.

The Supreme Court also said that it is not in favour of a blanket ban on mining in the Aravallis as past experience has shown that this will only lead to illegal mining which will be more difficult to control.

A central empowered committee working under the supervision of the Supreme Court has prepared and submitted a preliminary report detailing illegal mining activities, encroachment on forest land and other areas under the Aravallis.

A preliminary report of the Forest Survey of India giving a rough delineation of the 100-km buffer zone in and around the Aravallis was also submitted to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court said that illegal mining has become rampant and regulation of legal mining or commercial activities has become so difficult that there is no accepted definition of the boundaries of the Aravallis or within it. There is no mapping of the areas, which will require agreement between the four states and the central and other agencies concerned.

Haryana does not even use the term Aravalli.

The SC has now set up a committee comprising the heads of the forest departments of the four states, representatives from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other relevant agencies. It will report in two months on a consolidated definition of Aravallis.

The Indian Space Research Organisation has prepared a Desertification and Land Degradation Atlas that documents the degradation of about 98 million hectares, or about 30% of India’s geographical area (328 mha), during 2018-19.

50% of the land in Rajasthan and Gujarat has already been degraded.

The Aravalli Green Wall Project has been launched. A 1,400 km long and 5 km wide green belt will be created in and around the Aravallis in Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Gujarat. There are plans to revive 75 water reservoirs (covering five per district).

Many hills have been razed to the ground due to mining. About 25% of the trees have now disappeared. As shown by satellite images and ground observations, mining and hillock damage in the Aravallis have destroyed most of the natural drainages.

Forest cover has also suffered a great deal. In Rajasthan, about 10,500 sq km of area was under some form of forest in 1972-75, only 6,000 sq km remained in 1981-84.

Residential cover has increased in many districts of Rajasthan and Haryana. Sand dunes and desert vegetation are found in many areas. Pasture area has decreased considerably.

Gaps in the Aravallis and loss of native trees, shrubs and vegetation have also led to climate change in the region. Many districts have recorded below average rainfall for several years.

Groundwater has suffered another major loss. In areas adjoining Delhi and the industrial belt in the south, groundwater levels have fallen to between 10 m and 150 m below the ground.

Termites cause depletion of groundwater, adversely affecting agriculture and productivity.

Many areas are witnessing encroachment by leopards, nilgais and other wildlife that have been driven out of their habitats.

Administrative and political authorities

There is a long history of involvement. Government agencies themselves have openly flouted the rules. Haryana has built several official complexes such as police training institutes in the Aravalli areas

However, given the long arm of vested interests and their collaborators in the administration and the political establishment, citizens need to be vigilant and prevent further destruction of the Aravallis, an important ecosystem in western and northwestern India. (Gujarati to Google translation)