About 8% of Aravali hills gone since 1975, 22% loss likely by 2059: Study, ET RealEstate

June 24, 2023

<p>Representative Image</p>
Representative Image

GURUGRAM: Between 1975 and 2019, nearly 8% of the Aravali hills have disappeared, says a study of the ranges across four states, projecting the losses to rise to around 22% by 2059 if “explosive” urbanisation and mining continue at the current pace.

Delhi-NCR, according to the researchers, will be at the heart of both the cause and effect of this loss. The Aravalis, the study infers, are most vulnerable here, and as more hills get flattened, they will open a “gateway” for the Thar desert to expand towards the national capital area, which implies a more dusty and arid landscape, a rise in pollution levels and more erratic weather patterns.

‘5% of hills converted into barren land’

Nearly 8% of the Aravali hills have disappeared between 1975 and 2019, says a study of the ranges across four states. Researchers from the Central University of Rajasthan (CURaj) studied satellite images and land-use maps between 1975 and 2019 to come up with estimates. Their paper – titled Assessment of Land-Use Dynamics of the Aravalli Range – was published in the journal Science Earth Informatics this January.

Data analysed by researchers showed that 5772.7 sqkm (7.6%) of the Aravali ranges was flattened in the 44-year period they studied. Of this, nearly 5% (3,676 sqkm) of the hills was converted into barren land and another 776.8 sqkm (around 1%) into settlements. The projected loss by 2059 of total Aravali area is 16,360 sqkm, according to the report.

In this time period, the average deforestation rate was 0.57% annually, the study’s lead researcher Laxmi Kant Sharma told TOI. If this continues, the landscape in swathes of north India will become arid and desertification will set in, according to the study.

“…change from 1975 to 2019, which shows that the Aravali range is passing through significant deterioration, where biodiversity loss is prominent… These deteriorated hill gaps have opened a gateway for desertification in the northeast part of Rajasthan to Delhi,” the study says.

A total of 2,269 hills make up the Aravalis that extend from Gujarat to Delhi, via Rajasthan and Haryana. The hills and the forests of the ranges are natural barriers to the expansion of the Thar desert. Unchecked mining for stones and sand has been accelerating the rate of damage to the Aravalis over the decades.

In October 2018, a central empowered committee appointed by the Supreme Court informed a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that one-fourth of the Aravali ranges in Rajasthan (31 out of 128 hills in the state) had disappeared over a 50-year period because of illegal mining.

It is a matter of serious concern that stone mining continues unabated despite the apex court ban. The flagrant violation of the court order means a total contempt for the law of the land, and a quiet confidence that no harm will come. Such criminal acts undermine the faith that common law-abiding people have in a state’s ability to enforce the rule of law. Authorities should not only ensure that the mining stops immediately, but also weed out the corrupt from the system, without whose support such activities cannot continue.TimesView

In adjacent south Haryana, despite the Supreme Court banning mining in Gurgaon, Faridabad and Nuh in 2009, it continues to make gashes in the ranges, operating through an entrenched network. Last July, a Haryana Police DSP was crushed to death by the driver of a truck carrying illegally mined stones in Nuh. Earlier this week, a government team was attacked by 10-12 stick-wielding men at Sancholi village in Sohna.

The CURaj study says 1,852 sqkm of the Aravalis is currently being mined in nine areas – Gurgaon, Faridabad, Rewari, Jaipur, Alwar and Ajmer. There are 4,150 mining leases, of which just 288 have environmental clearance, the study notes, citing data released by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) in a report in 2017.

Sharma, who is also the head of department of environmental science at CURaj, said that by the estimates of the study, 3.5% (2,628.6 sqkm) of the total Aravali area will be used for mining by 2059

  • Published On Jun 19, 2023 at 04:00 PM IST

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