Save Aravalli: battle still on

Save Aravalli: battle still on

Green concern

Save Aravalli: battle still on

The courts have once again spoken up for the world’s oldest mountain range located in Delhi-NCR – the Aravalli.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has recently ruled that no roads can be constructed in the Aravalli belt of Gurgaon and tree felling should also not be allowed here. This ruling follows successive judgements on preservation of the hills including Supreme Court’s landmark verdict of 2002 banning rampant mining in the Gurgaon stretch.

Local residents and environmentalists are no doubt jubilated over their long-standing demand being upheld and hopeful that the Aravalli may finally be saved. However, concerns remain as to how far this court verdict will translate on the ground, or if, this will also be flouted as many before.

The 800 km long Aravalli begins in Gujarat and traverses Rajasthan and Haryana to reach the Capital. Delhi Ridge forms its last leg and terminates at Raisina Hill. It is known as the last surviving natural ecosystem of Delhi housing many rare species of plants and animals.

Environmentalist Aneeta Malhotra informs Metrolife, “Aravalli forms an important green lung for the crowded and polluted NCR. Hence, it is important not just for its habitant animals but humans as well. More so, the hills are a crucial catchment area to recharge our ground water. Parts of Delhi and Haryana are already suffering from chronic water shortage.”

“Unmindful of its importance though, the Aravalli has been exploited by authorities and private interests over the past several decades. Due to its rich quartzite reserve, used in construction, the hills have been mined hollow. Today, you see many lakes in the hills which are not natural but created due to mining. Add to that senseless tree felling and building of farmhouses and resorts.”

Evidently, the destruction of Aravalli benefits many. Thanks to the efforts of such people, successive court judgements have failed to see implementation. RTI activist Sarvadaman Oberoi says, “Aravalli is a golden egg. Miners, builders, the politicians and bureaucrats who own farmhouses here – all want a share in its pie. No doubt the police and forest officers are scared of taking on them.”

“The courts do their jobs, but these vested interests find loopholes in each judgement. They come up with arguments like this village or plot was never a forest and therefore not included in the Aravallis, and go on with their illegal activities here. It is difficult to stop them.”

Several vigilante measures suggested by courts have also not been realised. RP Balwan, retired conservator of forests, Gurgaon, says, “It has been advised many a times that regular satellite imagery of Aravalli should be done. The authorities can lie, activists can lie but not satellite images.”

“Also, an independent body of environmentalists and concerned citizens should be set up to check on the hills. The selection should be done such that no one has a stake in destruction of Aravalli. I doubt though, that we can find one honest person in today’s world.”

Citizens of Gurgaon, as Metrolife found out, are however, much more enthusiastic and hopeful regards this ruling. Anubhav Saxena of a group called Let’s Walk Gurgaon expressed, “We know that protecting Aravalli is not easy, but we are hopeful that all efforts combined will yield result.”

“10 years back, mining had almost finished off these hills. The SC move succeeded in stopping that to a large extent. Who knows, we may get to see neelagai and peacocks here once again?”     

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