Reverse the damage done to the Aravallis
When the world is scrambling to save its blue-green infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis, this lackadaisical approach towards the Aravallis is not just unexplainable but also misguided.
For hundreds of thousands of years, the Aravalli mountain ranges have endured assault by lava flows, submergence by seas, collision with landmasses and erosion by wind and rain, writes Pranay Lal in Indica: A Deep Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent. But today, the Aravallis, which acts as a wall between the sandy desert in the west and the fertile plains of north India, are fighting a battle of another kind. According to a report published in this newspaper, a ground survey by Haryana found 6,793 unauthorised structures in 729 locations, protected under the Punjab Land Preservation Act (PLPA), in four villages in the Faridabad district. In its July 21, 2022 judgment, the Supreme Court held that the land covered under PLPA must be protected under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, and the state cannot permit their use for non-forest activities without a prior central nod. While Haryana officials say that notices were served to owners of the unauthorised structures and a decision will be taken after hearings in the apex court conclude, they need to answer a basic question: How did so many unauthorised structures come up in a restricted area?
The results of this exercise corroborate what is widely known — the record of governments on Aravalli conservation is abysmal. From mining to illegal encroachment and a recent plan to set up a zoo safari, authorities seem to pay no heed to environmental concerns about the destruction of a range that is not only home to a wide range of biodiversity but also works as a climate regulator and a groundwater recharge zone. When the world is scrambling to save its blue-green infrastructure to mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis, this lackadaisical approach towards the Aravallis is not just unexplainable but also misguided.